Monday, December 31, 2018

Hitman 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 5 - Whittleton Creek

And now, our Improvisation Run moves from the slums to the suburbs in Whittleton Creek. Separating from the ICA to pursue his own agenda, Agent 47 is out to finish what he started as a little boy.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hitman 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 4 - Mumbai (Attempt 2)

Now that the game's save system is back online, we can safely continue the Improvisation Run. We return to Mumbai to finish what we started.

If you want to watch runs like this as they are recorded, be sure to subscribe to my Twitch.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Disappointments of 2018

Now that I’ve gotten all the positivity of gaming in 2018 out of the way, it’s time to go into the games that left me unsatisfied. As per usual, just because a game is on this list doesn’t make it necessarily bad. All it means is that, either or technical issues or questionable design choices, it left a sour taste in my mouth.

That being said, the disappointments of 2018, presented in random order, are:

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Hitman 2 - Elusive Target 2 - Bash the Fash

As I like to say, whenever you see a fascist, you should do their best to kill them, unless they'd get caught. In that case, find someone who won't get caught and have them do it for you.

With that in mind, of course I would try my hand at the new Elusive Target. Codename: The Revolutionary.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Hitman 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 3 - Mumbai

The Improvisation Run continues, this time in the slums of Mumbai. And remember, if you want to watch content that this as it's record live, be sure to follow me on Twitch.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Hitman 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 2 - Santa Fortuna

With a new setup in tow, the Improvisation Run for Hitman 2 continues. Don't forget to check out my Twitch channel if you want to see these as they are recorded live!

For those of you who are curious, I was able to fight the stream hiccups by switching from OBS to Nvidia Shadowplay, since I use one their GTX 980 graphics card. Since the software would've been designed to work with their own graphics card, I figured I'd have more success with it than with the more general use OBS. As you can see, it's a lot more stable.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Highlights of 2018

Another year has past, and with it another assortment of fantastic games. It seems that as the years go by, I find it harder and harder to keep up with the near constant flood. Even if I quit my job and spent all my free time playing, I'd never be able to come close to touching all of the remarkable games that game out in 2018 alone.

That said, there is still a respectable number of games that I did play this year. And, as in previous years, this space is dedicated to the ones that stood out. This list is presented in random order, and just because a game you like doesn't make this list doesn't mean it's bad. Rather, it means it didn't evoke strong enough feelings from me to make this list, or I just didn't get around to playing it.

With that said, the highlights for 2018 are:

Friday, December 14, 2018

Alpha Protocol - Closure Alert - Part 6

A shorter, but very impactful recording this time. We've finished up with Taipei and lightly touch on Rome, which we'll start in earnest next time.

If you want to watch content like this as it's recorded live, be sure to subscribe to my Twitch channel to be informed when we go live.

The whole issue with Ronald Sung brings up a point that the "newdarkcloud" from 5 years ago didn't understand as well as I do today, the difference between a plot hole and a character flaw. Way back when we recorded Disclosure Alert, I described Sung's desire to neither wear a bulletproof vest or call in riot police unless he is given concrete proof of the events against him as a plot hole, when that's honestly incorrect and unfair.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

#121 - Hitman Takes Itself Seriously Because You're Not Supposed To

The easiest way to tell if someone has spent a lot of time playing Hitman is to ask them what their impression is of the franchise. Someone who has never played it before will usually think it's a very gritty, serious series where the main character is one of the most boring, dour people on the planet. But if a fan of the franchise was asked the same question, they would say it is one of the most hilarious IPs in the games industry, filled with the most delightfully macabre, black humor. Whether it's intentional or not, this disconnect between the stern face of Agent 47, everyone's favorite murder boy, and the comedy which he is party to, sits at the seat of what makes Hitman such a gem in the eyes of those who play it.

The genius of Hitman is that no matter how absurd the situation he's put in, no matter what is happening to those around him, Agent 47 will always look on with the same blank, completely humorless expression on his face. This visual can be amusing on it's own, in the right situation, but when all the various opportunities IO has afforded the player kick in, hilarity ensues. In other words, 47 is the ultimate straight man. There is never a moment when he loses his composure, which means that he can play off of absurd situations in a way that very few characters are capable. He's an extraordinarily boring character on his own, and that's largely the point.

Will Never Smile, No Matter What
And yet, if Agent 47 is the straight man, who is the funny man is this comedy duo? Normally, one might think it is his handler, Diana Burnwood. While she's certainly got her own brand of humor, and isn’t shy about making quips at her partner's, or their target's, expense, she often plays it just as straight as the assassin she feeds intel to. No, the funny man is someone else entirely: It is the player, in collaboration with the writing team at IO Interactive, that forms the second half of what would more accurately be described as Hitman's “comedy quartet”. This dynamic between the characters inside the game world, and us outside of it, is the most fundamental building block from which all of the series's best moments can be traced back to.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Hitman 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 1 - Hawke's Bay and Miami (with Bonus Escalation Contract)

First off, allow me to begin my apologizing once again for the quality of the video footage in this upload. For some reason, OBS begins to falter once I start to enter areas in Hitman 2 that have large crowds. I suspect it has something to do with the toll it takes on the GPU. After this recording, I spent an hour coming up with and testing a solution to this problem, which should fix the broadcast for the next recording. Please bear with me until then.

That said, after spending nearly a year playing Hitman (2016), you didn't think I would let this new Hitman go quietly in the good night so easily, did you? Of course I was going to play it on stream. And, like with the Dishonored series, I want to get into the habit of "failure" shape my run in interesting ways that I don't usually get to see. That becomes a lot easier with a crowd keeping me honest.

Enter the Hitman 2 Improvisation Run! Today, we took on the tutorial mission, and the first real mission of the game, in Miami.

In addition, because I wanted to savor my Hitman experience a bit more, I opted to end the stream with an Escalation Contract. (Again, apologies for the video quality.)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Alpha Protocol - Closure Alert - Part 5

After finally wrapping up Russia, the Closure Alert band returns to Taipei to finish what we started in the pursuit of the insidious unknown assassin attempting to murder Ronald Sung.

Don't forget that if you want to see content like this as it's recorded live, be sure to check out my Twitch at

First off, props go to anaphysik here for his very involved research into the nature of Taiwanese/Chinese relations and the political quagmire that encompasses it. Up until he started talking about it off camera, I was completely unaware of the finer details behind it all. Though Obsidian gets a lot of that wrong, it colors the whole Taiwan section of the game in a way my younger self couldn't possibly appreciate.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hitman 2 - Elusive Target 1 - Sean Bean Dies!

Poor Sean Bean. He's a legendary talent, and an incredible actor. But despite that, there's one thing that he's more famous for than anything else: Dying in almost every single role that he's done.

So when IO Interactive not only makes him the very first Elusive Target for Hitman 2, but gives him the code name "The Undying", they know exactly what kind of challenge they are giving to their player base.

And I, being a very prolific Hitman/Elusive Target player, had no choice but to answer the call.

First off, props to Sean Bean for being such a good sport about this, and to IO for getting him to agree to it.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Acharky and I Listen... to THE QUIET MAN

One of the biggest selling points behind The Quiet Man is that the game has little audio, to help viewers better understand the viewpoint of protagonist Dane, who is born deaf. (Which, considering this means the player can't understand things he clearly can, isn't helpful, but I digress.)

So what should be an adequate reward for beating The Quiet Man? Well, beating The Quiet Man awards the player with the ability to play the game again, but this time with audio and subtitles. And to get the full experience of The Quiet Man, Chris and I decided jump back into it.

The article Chris mentioned, written by OneOddGamerGirl, can be found here. This is an amazing article the brings up a lot of baggage that I couldn't even begin to get into as someone who is not part of the deaf community.

And thank you to Twitch stream viewer Nelson Demifur from making this highlight clip during the broadcast, which very accurately summarizes my feelings behind The Quiet Man.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Acharky and I Tell You About.... THE QUIET MAN

I knew going into The Quiet Man that it wasn't going to be a good game, but I was absolutely shocked by how terrible it truly was. What should have been a mediocre FMV game about a deaf person turned out to be one of the most pretentious and confused piles of bad decisions I have born witness too.

And, if you're so inclined, you are welcome to join me on this adventure into The Quiet Man.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Alpha Protocol - Closure Alert - Part 4

Our first major boss fight has been completed, and we were able to show off quite a bit.

If you wish to watch content like this as it's recorded live, be sure to follow my Twitch at

Monday, October 8, 2018

Alpha Protocol - Closure Alert - Part 3

Aldowyn, anaphysik, and I continue our redemptive journey with Closure Alert - Part 3. Here, we finish dealing with Shaheed, and discover that the Halbech missiles weren't stolen. In the ensuing chaos, we're turned loose to stop a cold war from turning into a real one.

Way back in the day, I was one of the few people who defended Alpha Protocol's timed dialogue system. At the time, I liked them for the way they kept the conversation flowing at a good pace, to keep up the illusion that the player is part of a spy movie.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

#120: The Wasted Potential of Tomb Raider

It's no secret that I was a big fan of Tomb Raider (2013). As my friend Sam and I explored in our Interactive Friction season on that game, it wasn't perfect, but it served as an excellent branching point to build a whole franchise off of. When the credits rolled, both of us were excited to see what direction Crystal Dynamics would go in future games. But now, after playing through the following two games, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I'm left feeling snubbed. It's less certain now that there is a clear direction for the series. Bluntly, both games are emblematic of a wasted opportunity to really explore Lara's character and expand on it, repeating too much of the 2013 reboot's story and systems in contexts that don't make sense.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Eternal - Card Games and Conversations

Normally, I stream Magic the Gathering: Arena every Saturday at 8-10 PM EST on my Twitch channel. As someone who has gotten really into Magic over the past few years, I've enjoyed sharing my appreciation with others.

But this past weekend, Arena's servers were gearing up to be reset in anticipation of moving from Closed Beta to Open Beta, so I didn't feel a strong urge to play it. Instead, I decided to stream a bit of a game I've been slowly diving into. It's called Eternal, and it was made by professional MTG players.

The MTG influence is pretty easy to see, but they make a number of intelligent choices both to alleviate some of the problems inherent to it's inspiration, and take advantage of the fact that the game exists in a digital medium, rather the physical cards that define Magic.

The stream audience and I had a very pleasant back and forth about it, and I thought it would be worth it to share with the rest of you.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Alpha Protocol - Closure Alert - Part 2

Aldowyn, Wil, and I are back once again, continuing our journey of redemption with Closure Alert - Alpha Protocol.

And as a reminder, you can find our original recordings here.

It's been interesting to rewatch the old show in the context of trying to resurrect it in this format. It's been five whole years since then, Disclosure Alert has grown into a bit of a meme among the very limited group of people who even know about it. On top of that, we've all grown in the time since, which really comes off in the recording.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Alpha Protocol - Closure Alert - Part 1

Finally, we're back. After 5 whole years, Aldowyn, anaphysik, and have come back together to finish our Let's Play series on Alpha Protocol.

No longer Disclosure Alert: Welcome... to Closure Alert.

We recorded this on my Twitch channel. Be sure to subscribe and tune in to see us continue our path to redemption.

I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am to go back and finish this after so long. Not only do I have so much to say about Alpha Protocol, but his series highlights both how different the gaming landscape is from 5 years ago, and how much the three of us have changed in that same time.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I, Aldowyn, and anaphysik do!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Dishonored 2 - Talking About New Game+

And one last little surprise. Let's spend a few moments going ham and talking about Dishonored 2's New Game Plus mode.

Thank you so much to everyone who tuned in to even a moment of this series. It was a blast to record with everyone on stream, and I look forward to hanging out with you again!

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider - Improvisation Run - Part 4 (Finale)

At long last, it is finally done. The Outsider, an entity on great power, who influenced the fates of so many, has finally been erased from the world. And with this accomplishment, so to ends our Improvisation Run. It has been an incredible experience for me, and I'm glad to have gone through this whole franchise with you all.

If you want to follow me onto the next series, be sure to follow my Twitch channel for content updates.

This area, where the Outsider truly resides, surrounded by the Eyeless Cult, is where the Void seeps into the living world. This makes it a perfect staging ground for the cult, whose sole purpose is to become one with the powers of the Void, obtaining omniscience and omnipotence.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider - Improvisation Run - Part 3

Let us continue our adventures as Billie Lurk, master assassin on a quest to kill a god.

Not only do we finish up The Bank Heist, one of the greatest levels in the series next to Crack in the Slab, Clockwork Mansion, and Lady Boyle's Last Party, but we only return the Observatory and tussle with the occupying Overseers.

If you wish to watch content like this as it's recorded, be sure to check out my Twitch channel.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider - Improvisation Run - Part 2

Our mission to assassinate The Outsider continues, and there's very little that anyone could do to get in our way.

As I mentioned in the episode, Death of the Outsider raises an interesting philosophical and moral question. The Outsider, as a god, and see all possible timelines except those where he no longer exists. When he finds an individual who exists at a moment of great divergence, he grants that person power, usually in the form of his mark. Though he hopes that they use that power for good, he is aware that there is always the chance they will abuse their new abilities.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider - Improvisation Run - Part 1

Although Emily's adventure has come to an end, the world of Dishonored marches on. People are still destitute, and suffering is commonplace. It is in this part of town where Billie Lurk, infamous assassin, lives and thrives.

This is her story, and if you wish to see it unfold live, be sure to follow my Twitch channel for updates.

There are two changes made to the Dishonored formula in Death of the Outsider, and they have a massive effect on the player experience.

Dishonored 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 6 (Finale)

We're finally made it. At long last, we have attained a way to defeat Delilah and save the empire.

It was a ton of fun to perform this improvisation run on stream. As we keep playing other, similar games on stream, you can always follow me on Twitch to keep abreast of what we're playing. Be sure to pop in and say hello.

There's not a whole lot more to say about Dishonored 2 that we haven't already discussed in previous episodes.

The most interesting aspects of this final mission are all the myriad callbacks to the previous Dishonored game and its DLC. Since the vast majority of the mission takes place in a map that was used for both Mission 1 of Dishonored 2, and the prologue and Mission 6 of the first game, it's only natural to reference what came before, as a treat to those who have stuck with it since the beginning.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Dishonored 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 5

We're getting close, friends. The finale is in sight. We only have a few objectives we need to complete before we proceed onto the finale.

If you want to watch content like this as it is being recorded live, please follow my Twitch at

Time travel/manipulation tends to follow one of two possible interpretations in fiction: Either there is one overarching timeline (which is either immutable or manipulated by events occurring in the story), or each change results in another timeline shooting off from the one the change took place in. While Dishonored 2 appears to follow the first model for now, Death of the Outsider will call that into question.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Dishonored 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 4

Apologies for the technical mess that is this recording. That said, we went through quite a decent chunk of the game in this stream, and it ended up being a lot of fun.

If you wish to see content like this as it's created live, be sure to follow my Twitch at

Dishonored 2 is a really fun game, and honestly pretty stable once it starts running (at least, now that it's been patched). That said, I always get a bit nervous when I launch it because I can't tell how many times I'll need to relaunch it to get it to run properly.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Interactive Friction (and Guest) - Detroit: Become Human (All 5 Parts)

Over the course of almost 2 months, my Interactive Friction co-host Sam, and Chris, the other half of the Marvelous Duo, came together to subject ourselves to David Cage's latest disaster-piece: Detroit: Become Human.

Why did we do this? Because David Cage's game have always proven to be a strong source of unintentional comedy. The plot's are usually so badly written that they are practically incoherent, with characters that act like they're from an alien planet.

That's certainly present in Detroit: Become Human, but it is a lot worse in so many ways.

Here are the streams, all 5 of them. If you wish to view content like this as it's recorded live, be sure to follow my Twitch at

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dishonored 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 3

And so we continue our adventures with Empress Emily Kaldwin.

Gwen sadly couldn't join us for this recording, but we still had a great time regardless.

If you want to watch content like this as it's recorded live, be sure to tune into my Twitch channel at

The Clockwork Mansion is one of the most creative levels out there, and one of my favorite in Dishonored 2. The nature of a modifiable area, combined with immersive sim gameplay, leads to a ton of creative design space. We saw an example of this with a few of bonecharms located in spaces between the walls and hidden in places one can only reach by re-configuring the environment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dishonored 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 2

Sorry I didn't post anything last week. I was too sick to stream, and thus too sick to make anything for the blog.

This time, I have a guest joining me for the run. Gwen is a friend of mine who loves Dishonored even more than I do, so she'll be a great co-host for the rest of our time with the franchise.

If you wish to see content like this as it is recorded live, be sure to follow my Twitch channel at

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Dishonored 2 - Improvisation Run - Part 1

And at last we move on to the main event: Dishonored 2.

While I really like the original Dishonored and its DLC, it's undeniable that Dishonored 2 improved onto it in many ways big and small. Even post-release, there were a number of additions to the game that further separated it from its predecessor.

I went on a lot about it at the start of the stream, but "Custom" difficulty is one of the smartest ideas I've ever seen. Considering so much of the immersive sim's appeal is in the ability to tackle problems in the way you feel is best, giving players the ability to tailor the difficulty to their own preferences is the most logical conclusion of that.

Of course we're going to play as Emily. Even before Dishonored 2 came out, I thought a lot of Corvo's powers weren't all that great. By comparison, Emily has not only a better suite of powers, but they synergize and combine a lot better than many of Corvo's. Especially once the late game upgrades start to kick in, Emily can set up interesting combos that her father could never dream of. Hopefully, as I continue my journey, I can show off at least some of these.

In terms of non-lethal play, Dishonored 2 added a few invaluable tools to lessen the pain of attempting such a run. While in combat, if an attack is parried, the player can take a staggered guard and choke them out, rendering them alive, but unconscious. This allows a skilled fighter to still complete a low chaos/non-lethal run when if they find themselves incapable of sneaking around successfully. Furthermore, they gave players the ability to do a non-lethal, but loud drop take-down. This allows for a loud, but otherwise pacifist run of the game.

Though the premise of Delilah's coup is a silly one, it's one of those things that needs to be accepted just so that the story can progress. There's some cool things that Dishonored 2 does with it's plot and chaos systems in this game, and I look forward to talking more about them.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches - Improvisation Run - Part 2 - Twitch VOD

At long last, we were able to stop Delilah and save the Princess Emily from her fate as one of Delilah's puppets. This is the end of Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches.

If you wish to see content like this being recording live, remember to follow me on Twitch at or on Twitter @newdarkcloud.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

#119: Vampyr: The Never-Ending Struggle

When I popped the disc for Vampyr into my PS4, I wasn't entirely sure what I should be expecting. I knew the broad strokes: That I was taking the role of a surgeon, newly turned into a vampire during the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 London. But beyond that, I knew nothing about the what the game could be. Starting a New Game, before I became a creature of the night, a message popped up on screen:

“In this game, difficulty is tied to your actions. The more lives you take, the easier the game will be.”

Without knowing it, I was already introduced to one of the most fascinating concepts in Vampyr. Other vampire games before this have tried to capture the constant push and pull between a bloodsucker's need to maintain their humanity and their need to feed. Vampires: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, for one, did this through the “humanity” mechanic inherent to the tabletop RPG series it draws from. The way Dontnod's Vampyr chose to systematize this inherent push and pull has stuck with me long after I finished my adventure because of how clever and unique it is.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Interactive Friction Presents: A Way Out - Part 3 (Twitch VOD)

Welcome to the final part of Interactive Friction plays A Way Out. This is the final part of our playthrough of the game, and one of the better parts of the game. Or at least, one of the most interesting parts of it.

If you want to watch content like this as it is recorded live, be sure to follow my Twitch at

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches - Improvisation Run - Part 1 - Twitch VOD

And so we being the second of Dishonored's story-based DLCs: The Brigmore Witches.

Unlike the previous DLC, we weren't able to finish the whole thing in a single session. The plan will be to finish the last mission and then transition into Dishonored 2 if there is time remaining.

If you wish to see content like this, be sure to follow me on Twitch at

Friday, June 22, 2018

Interactive Friction Presents: A Way Out - Part 2 (Twitch VOD)

Interactive Friction returns with the second part of our three part series on A Way Out.

We successfully found A Way Out of jail. And now, we're in another predicament. With Harvey and the police after us, we need to evade our pursuers and get revenge. Will we find A Way Out of this? Or will the Oscars defeat us once and for all?

If you wish to see content like this recorded live, be sure to tune in to my Twitch channel at

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall - Improvisation Run - Twitch VOD

Now that we've finished vanilla Dishonored, it's time to keep going with the DLC. Starting with The Knife of Dunwall, the developers at Arkane started making a ton of improvements to the core game that had a huge impact of the end-user experience.

Remember, if you wish to watch these get recorded live, you should subscribe to my Twitch channel:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dishonored - Improvisation Run - Part 3 - Twitch VOD

It's been really fun to play Dishonored on stream, for all the people who joined in. In this last session, we were able to finish the Campaign in Low Chaos.

Remember, if you want to see this content as it's being recorded live, be sure to follow my Twitch channel at The next time I have a variety stream slot open, I'll continue with the Dishonored DLC (Knife of Dunwall/Brigmore Riches).

Credit to both IGN and AARONMACKENZIE for their videos on the High Chaos run of the game. It made it easier to talk about them with a visual handy.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Interactive Friction Presents: A Way Out - Part 1 (Twitch VOD)

Welcome to a new chapter in Interactive Friction. Sam and I are glad to get back to playing games, but the sad fact is neither one of us has enough time to produce the highly edited content you guys are used to from us. For that reason, we've decided to transition to the more accessible territory of streaming, much like my Dishonored LP.

To that end, here is the first of our VODs from our 3 sessions on A Way Out. If you want to see more content like this live, as it happens, by sure to subscribe to my Twitch channel at

Apologies for Sam's audio early on. After about 10 minutes, he eventually recognizes and fixes the problem.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dishonored - Improvisation Run - Part 2 - Twitch VOD

Those of you who have been following my streams know that I've been busy recording A Way Out with Sam.

With that out of the way, I returned, at least briefly, to my run of Dishonored.

One of the big topics that came up in the middle of the recording was the really strange, casual sexism that does exist within the game. Some of it is less overt, like the fact that all the female characters are in some subservient role. Most of background ladies are either brothel workers or maids in some capacity. Stuff like this is hard to notice unless you're aware of the issue and are actively looking for it.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dishonored - Improvisation Run - Part 1 - Twitch VOD

I've been wanting to play Dishonored for an LP ever since I completed the Hitman Let's Play series, but I was struggling to find time to do it.

Then in walked streaming into my life, and suddenly what would've been a huge commitment is now much easier on my time.

The idea for this run to be more "improvisational" than I usually am when playing Dishonored or any immersive sim. When I play for myself, I tend to save scum. If something goes wrong, I'll glad boot up an old save and do it again. And since I'm constantly on the Quick Save key, I'm rarely thrown back too far.

Since so many of the great stories from this genre are born from screwing up and adapting in the face of adversity, I want to force myself to roll with the punches. Since nobody enjoys watching someone else save scum, doing this on stream will force me to break the habit.

It's also nice to have a presence to bounce ideas off of while playing the game. Knowing someone is watching makes it easier to roll with my train of thought and communicate my ideas.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. If you want to watch this live whenever I next record, be sure to follow my Twitch channel.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Twitch VOD - Detroit: Become Human Demo

Okay, video content is simply hard to produce on a consistent basis. Editing videos takes time, and doesn't allow for much interaction.

Streaming is comparatively easy, allows for audience participation, and automatically saves a video of the event. This makes it a lot easier both for me to make content for you, and for you to have your voice heard.

My friends David Phillips and Andre Doucet joined me to play the demo for Quantic Dream's Detroit: Become Human. Here is the result:

Saturday, April 21, 2018

#118: The Dangerous "Lessons" of Far Cry 5

I make no secret of the fact that Ubisoft and I have an on-again, off-again relationship. Every now and then they create a game like Assassin's Creed: Origins, that I can easily sink 50+ hours into without thinking -- sure, it may have its flaws, but there's clearly a level of love and care imbued into the final product. Other times, they are liable to produce content like Watch_Dogs, which paints itself as a typical, by-the-numbers open-world revenge story that left me sour and disappointed. From my previous experiences with 3, 4, and Primal, I was expecting the fifth entry in the Far Cry franchise to be dumb but otherwise milquetoast: A decent open-world shooter with a story that brought up some interesting ideas that ultimately go nowhere.

Instead, what I received was one of the worst stories I had ever seen in an Ubisoft game. Even more than the villainous Aiden Pearce in Watch_Dogs, Far Cry 5 left me contemptuous and ultimately resentful of the direction the developers chose to go. There are some very dangerous implications behind the story, particularly the ending, and they need to be discussed. (Though it goes without saying, there are spoilers abound, so read at your own risk.)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

#117: What Can the Dominaria Leak Teach Game Publishers?

The game industry is notorious for a number of problems, one of them being an almost complete unwillingness to let any information slip out even a second before schedule. But almost paradoxically, despite this level of secrecy, leaks are commonplace. Gaming journalists like Jason Schreier and Laura Kate Dale over at Kotaku have broken stories of upcoming projects, games, and announcements with great accuracy, and before the publishers in question wanted the leaked knowledge to go public.
That said, video games are not the only source of entertainment with such unscheduled reveals. Early last month, one of the oldest collectible card games around had a premature disclosure. Before the leak, it was widely known that Magic: The Gathering's next set of cards would take place in the plane of Dominaria, but one of their offices in China erroneously sent out specifics on what cards would be contained in this set, along with mechanical or verbiage changes that would be in effect going forward. I'm not interested in discussing the leak itself in any significant detail. Instead, I want to discuss the response from the company that makes Magic, Wizards of the Coast(WotC), and how they provide a stark contrast to how the game industry handles similar events.

Yet before we do, it's important to understand how the game industry tends to act when details are revealed to the public before their intended date. When leaks happen, the first thing publishers almost always do is deny it in very specific terms, or go radio silent. Before her current job at Kotaku UK, Laura Dale was a journalist working for Destructoid UK, where she disclosed that a new DLC project, titled Rush of Blood, was coming to Until Dawn for the PlayStation 4's VR headset. The developers, Supermassive Games, hosted an AMA on Reddit shortly thereafter, where they both declined to comment on the story and specifically stated that there was “no DLC” in the works.
To most people, that reads as if the story Laura Dale reported had no basis in reality, but that would've been a misconception. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood was absolutely being developed for PlayStation VR. The difference is that it was never going to be a DLC for the base game: It was a stand-alone. Technically, no lie was ever spoken, as the claim that “no DLC” was being developed was completely true. Still, rather than just reveal that game's existence, both Sony and Supermassive Games deliberately tried to obfuscate the truth of the matter. In the similar case of premature release of the PS4 Slim, Sony took the less egregious path of just declining comment.
Denying the story isn't the only thing publishers are viable to do in response. Occasionally, punitive actions are taken against the outlet who released the information. Historically, this comes in the form of blacklisting said source, refusing to answer inquiries from them and/or give them pre-release product for the purpose of review. Kotaku has famously been the victim of several such orders, with Bethesda as a result of their Fallout 4 leak and Ubisoft after Assassin's Creed: Victory (later Syndicate) details were disclosed prior to the game's official announcement. Laura Dale faced similar stonewalling from Nintendo after uncovering the existence of the Switch. While these companies are obviously within their rights to refuse requests for comment, deny rumors, or to hand out review copies, it frequently comes across as needlessly combative.

Which brings us back to Wizards. Shortly after the Dominaria spoilers came to light, translated within days after its release, WotC wrote a blog post on their website about it. Rather than pretend it didn’t happen and sweep it under the rug, they publicly acknowledged the existence of the information. In order to avoid potential confusion, mistranslation, and idle speculation, their team opted to provide official copies of the leak's contents in various languages. This isn't to say that they were happy it happened, and even in their acknowledgment WotC says they are disappointed in how this information came out, but they were able to roll with the punches. There were even plans to accelerate the pace of the reveal until the fans themselves said that while they were excited: They still wanted something similar to the “usual” hype that surrounds a new set being released.
Admittedly, I and many of my friends who play Magic would not have heard about these leaks without Wizards official acknowledgment of them. That said, most of us had our own separate reactions to it. Scouring through list of new cards, I was already starting to plan new decks, and modifications to decks I had already built. I and one of my co-workers began to talk about how some of the new rule changes could impact the games we play over lunch. Some of my gender-nonconformist friends latched onto the fact that “he or she” would be replaced with “they”, both reducing the wordiness of card text and subtly acknowledging the existence of the gender spectrum. There was a lot to talk about, and almost all of it was positive. Despite the way it came out, it was still cool to have the “hype train” start a little early, and all of us were excited to see what else would come.

My point isn't that game publishers necessarily have to go public and admit the full details of every project that gets leaked. WotC didn't even do that. They kept more than a few details, like the art for the cards, secret so they still had something to surprise their audience with. That said, this incident clearly shows that there is room to handle these kinds of disclosures tactfully. What Wizards did that the game industry rarely does is seamlessly transformed it into part of their marketing. It didn't even require them to make any actual changes to their official release schedule. As someone who watches the game industry struggle to deny and rebuke information that is so obvious to the rest of us, it was more than a little refreshing to have a major corporation go “Yeah, it's a real leak, and it sucks. That said, it could be worse.” Leaks happen, and the industry at large could learn a thing or two from WotC about how to handle themselves when they do.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

#116: Wolfenstein: In Defense of Probst Wyatt III

It is the year 1946, and the Nazis are an ever looming threat. As the Allies struggle against the overwhelming tide of fascism, I, Captain William Joseph Blazkowicz, am on a mission to cut the head off the snake. Lead by Wing Commander Fergus Reid and with aid from Private Probst Wyatt III and the rest of our squad, I storm the infamous Castle Wolfenstein in order to assassinate General Deathshead. As the source of the Nazis inexplicably advanced weaponry, ridding the world of his evil would cripple their efforts across the theater of war. At first, all goes well. Fergus's leadership, and my prowess on the battlefield, allow us to make steady advances as our Allied forces distract the enemy.
This progress comes at a heavy price, as many of the others in our unit simply don't make it. Ultimately, with just me, Fergus, and Wyatt remaining, Deathshead easily captures us. But simply killing us isn't enough for the depraved sadist. He sees potential in my teammates, Fergus and Wyatt both, for use in his experiments. Unable to choose which one to dissect, this evil man forces me to make that choice for him, or he'll execute all three of us on the spot. Having gotten to know and value the leadership of Commander Reid, and not having as much time to cultivate that same bond with Private Wyatt, I make the grim decision to spare my Commander, leaving an innocent young man to die a needless death.
In doing so, I have made a terrible mistake.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Kingdom Hearts Primer - X: Back Cover - Episode 2 - So Whatever

At last, the Kingdom Hearts Primer comes to a close.

If you're curious about Sam's thoughts on Persona 3 and it's extra epilogue, The Answer, you can check out his post on them here.

Remember, as of the time of this post, the reveals regarding Riku's new outfit, Vanitas, and the new footage from the Monster's Inc world had not happened. Considering how much time Sam and I have spent on this project, we were getting exhausted by the hype train. I still stand by what I said, in that I need to see Kingdom Hearts 3 in my hands before I believe it's done, but you have to understand the context behind the statement.

This movie as a whole occupies a bizarre place. The fact that it's part of "Final Chapter Prologue" implies there is some relevance to Kingdom Hearts 3, but I just don't see it. Nothing here feels like it is of any consequence.

I'm left with a bizarre mixed of excitement at Kingdom Hearts 3, exhaustion from the Primer series, and confusion as to what Back Cover implies is in store for the franchise's future.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Kingdom Hearts Primer - X: Back Cover - Episode 1 - Bearly Deloved

We're so close to truly, honestly finished out this Primer series. Just one more episode after this one.

I don't actually have a whole lot to add here in the post-script. It's almost sad that Back Cover is the last thing we talk about in this project. Not much of note happens, and the whole film comes across as milquetoast.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Kingdom Hearts Primer - 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage - Episode 4 - The Kingdom Hearts Hype Train

And here comes the finale of 0.2

At the time we recorded this video, the trailers that were release earlier this month had not yet come out. Nor was the announcement that the game's release date would be formally revealed at E3 this year.

As much as those reveals did a lot to warm my heart to the idea of Kingdom Hearts 3 again, I still stand by my earlier statements that Kingdom Hearts 3's hype train started to grow into a massive problem. Part of why the most recent reveals were so important was that they give off the impression that Kingdom Hearts 3 might actually be finished some time soon.

Sam and I also talked about the prospect of shorter, character-focused RPGs and how much we'd be willing to spend on them. I'd like to pose that question to you guys reading this as well:

  • Would you be interested in a shorter, 4-6 hour RPG?
  • How much would be willing to spend on it if you are?
Mostly, I want to know if you guys are as into that idea as Sam and I are.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

#115 Resident Evil 7 - Biohazard : Inside the VR Headset

(Credit to this artist for the font)
Ever since a friend(?) asked me to join him in campaigns across Dead Space 3, Resident Evil 5, and Resident Evil 6, I have tried to broaden my horizons and open up to the horror genre. Up until then, I had avoided them like the plague because I was (for lack of a better phrasing) afraid to be scared. With mixed results, I've dived into the previous Dead Space games, Amnesia, Outlast, and a couple of others. This is why Resident Evil 7: Biohazard caught my attention last year despite not caring too much for RE6. Game critics and personal friends of mine who played it sang its praises, raising more than a few eyebrows.

But instead of rushing out to buy it, I waited... I waited because Resident Evil 7 would serve as a flagship game for the virtual reality headset Sony had created for the PS4. This wasn't just some mediocre extra mode that takes 5-10 minutes to play to stick some “VR Compatible” sticker on the box: The entire game was fully playable in VR from start to finish. Since I had already made plans to buy a PS VR headset, I decided to hold off on getting Resident Evil 7 until then. One Christmas and one playthrough later, and now I want to talk about the game, VR, and how they affected my opinions of each other.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Kingdom Hearts Primer - 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage - Episode 3 - A Good Character Piece

Surprising everyone, we have a lot of good things to say about Kingdom Hearts in this episode.

At the end of this episode, we begin to talk about how A Fragmentary Passage is a solid, 2-4 character piece (that also shows off the technology that will be used in Kingdom Hearts 3). The fact that it is such a concise, yet mostly complete experience is a large part of what makes it so successful.

As much as I love RPGs, the commitment required to finish most of the games in that genre is a huge barrier, especially as I come into a part of my life where I generally don't have to worry about being able to afford games. Persona 5 was one of my favorite games last year, but it's not easy to recommend a 100+ hour game to somebody. And it's especially not easy to dedicate the time to it.

Though it's hardly a great example of the genre, stuff like this and Alpha Protocol shows that it is possible to make RPGs that players don't have to spent months of their life playing. Undertale also did that only a few year ago. I'd love to see more RPGs so this route, if only for the selfish reason that it slides into my schedule more effortlessly.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Kingdom Hearts Primer - 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage - Episode 2 - Lost to Time

Settle in, ladies and gentleman, because things are getting self-referential and existential.

It's very ironic to talk about how people watch YouTube content podcast style when the footage for this "Let's Play" got corrupted.

It feels strange to talk about YouTube and how to work around it's many problems in the wake of all the recent controversies surrounding it. With the "adpocalypse", the rise of YouTube criticism in video games, and the rest of the "YouTube culture", it's a subject that probably won't go away anytime soon.

In a way, the whole reason I came up with the queue system in the first place was that the intended way to watch content on YouTube, to follow the recommended videos and keep watching through Autoplay, just didn't fit into my schedule. I found myself annoyed at all of the great content I wanted to watch and missed out on. Thus, the queue was formed.

I know it's weird, and I doubt many other people use systems like that, but it works for me.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Kingdom Hearts Primer - 0.2 Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage - Episode 1 - Pretty Dress Up

Remember when I said we were done with the Kingdom Hearts and considered it closed?

Well, I lied....

It's really painful to listen to how giddy we were to do a Let's Play... knowing that the footage corrupted and we ended up doing a sudo-podcast anyway. After the incident with Watch Dogs, and the corrupted recording of our first Kingdom Hearts 1 Primer, we swore off ever re-recording something again. We also decided that we wouldn't be able to recreate the magic that was this recording.

It's also nice to not be as critical about this game as we have been to other Kingdom Hearts games. Without spoiling the upcoming episodes too much, we had a great time with this recording. We had some criticisms to be sure, but this was largely 2 hours of praise.

Lastly, kudos to Sam for taking the footage from Gamer's Little Playground and meshing it with our audio to make a final piece that is still largely cohesive. This was quite an effort on his part, and I don't want it to be overlooked.

So yeah, you asked for it, and we'll deliver.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

#114: "The World" of .hack: How Does it Compare?

Ever since the advent of the internet, game designers have come up with a myriad of ways players can interact with and influence each other while in-game. From online shooters (both team-based and competitive), co-op campaigns, user-generated content, and even player messages ala Dark Souls, the network has become an increasingly valuable tool in the designer's kit. Certain genres, like the MMO, would be impossible without such technology. That particular genre is I what want to focus on today, but not in a way you might expect.

What I mean by that is that I want to take a look at the MMORPG, through the lens of a franchise known as .hack (read: dot hack). For those of who aren't aware, the .hack multimedia project first made its way to America in February 2003 with the animated series .hack//SIGN (read: dot hack sign), and a four part series of video games. This was later expanded on in 2006 with the .hack//GU trilogy and an accompanying anime called .hack//ROOTS, both taking place 7 years after the events of the quadrilogy. Taking place in an alternative universe where a computer virus destroyed all but one operating system and made hacking a capital offense worldwide, .hack details the adventures of various players of a fictional MMORPG called “The World”.

Most of the stories in this universe tend to focus on one character, and their circle of friends, as they investigate the mysterious circumstances wherein players are falling into a comatose state while in the middle of playing the game, with no reasonable medical explanation. While that’s the main focus, as a franchise set within an online game, it both implicitly and explicitly talks about the MMO genre and its evolution (since SIGN and the original four games take place in 2010, while GU and ROOTS take place in 2017). I want to examine these predictions and see how “correct” they were.