Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Prejudices, Preconceptions, Missteps and Mistakes

Prejudices exist. I know, shocking. For all their unpredictability, humans can be surprisingly predictable. We've all been guilty of it one time or another. Catching the eye of a person and then instantly cataloguing and thinking about what we think the person can or can't do, what their lifestyles are like, even where we think they came from or what they're doing.

Lots of people walk down the street, but what do we know about them?

It's a natural thing, stemming from the days when our ancient ancestors sized each other up to determine who was a rival and who was a friend. What sets us apart from them, however, is the degree to which we respond to this impulse.

So how does this tie into games? Very easily.

At Space World 2001, a game was revealed. The next chapter in a long-running game series. The game was called "Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker".

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Shigeru Miyamoto, one of my personal gaming heroes and the man responsible for saving video games in the mid-80s, said it would, "extend Zelda's reach to all ages". ( The game boasted both a young Link character, and unique, cel-shaded graphics. So what was the initial reaction?

Absolute backlash. A good deal of fans were both disappointed and aghast at the decision by Nintendo to come up with this entry in the series. After showing a demo the previous year with an older, more realistic Link, the gaming community felt betrayed. And this was before they'd even played it. Nintendo had just shown a video demo.

Gamers do not want colorful graphics!
Gamers do this sort of thing all too often. A slice of information is released about a project, or a screenshot or video is released and everyone instantly jumps on the release as a sign of doom.

Of course, the opposite is just as true. Look at the trailer for Dead Island. Fully rendered with a tear-inducing piano score and implying a story and characters. Gamers, myself included, were ecstatic about the idea. Then we played it and realized it was just kind of a soulless grind version of the Elder Scrolls games. It had it's fun in groups and such, yes, but nowhere near what we expected.

Error 404: Plot not found.
You see it on MMO forums, changes are announced in the works and groups unite like it is the coming Zombie apocalypse.

I'm not advocating not responding to things we don't agree with, but we should remember to temper both expectations and responses. If you worked a week on a project, put it on the table and then had some stranger screaming at your face because they didn't like the cover, how would you feel?

I'm also not saying the Devs/Publishers are without fault. It's their job to give us the information and opportunities we need to form our own constructive opinions. It's a very fine line to cross.

There's a twofold reason I'm writing this blog post. It's primarily to advocate tempered response from the gaming community, but also to make a bit of a confession.

I'm just as human as everyone else. To that end, I've also made judgements and Preconceptions about various things in life. I've been irate at stupid changes to World of Warcraft and other games.

Irate at things like...*MOO*ing stupid Pandas! Rawwwrgh!

I actually got a very poignant lesson recently.

A good friend of mine that I've known and talked to for about two years said a bit ago that he watched a certain show. I dismissed the show outright and I think even good naturedly ribbed my friend for it.

Then one weekend, curiousity got the better of me and I did a bit of research.

There's two things that draw me to something, controversy and being an underdog. When I read the show's wiki page, under reception, I found this:

"...the show was promoting the stereotype that 'all feminists are angry, tomboyish lesbians'." The critic "also considered that the only darker colored" characters "shown to date were in positions of servitude for the 'white...overlord...'"

and then this:

"Amid Amidi, writing for the animation website Cartoon Brew, was more critical of the concept of the show, calling it a sign of "the end of the creator-driven era in TV animation". Amidi's essay expressed concern that assigning talent like [Lauren] Faust...was part of a trend to focus on profitable genres of animation, such as toy tie-ins, to deal with a fragmented viewing audience, and overall 'an admission of defeat for the entire movement, a white flag-waving moment for the TV animation industry'."
This very much intrigued me, because anytime someone reacts this way, there's usually little to no actual reason for it. So I found the show on iTunes and saw that the first episode was actually free. I watched it.

When my friend logged onto Skype a few hours later, I was about 9 episodes in.

The show?

Yes. It is what it says it is. I don't lie...usually.
And before anyone says anything, no misconceptions. It has nothing to do with sexual preference or anything like that. Don't make the mistake to which I've been talking about the entire damn time.

I liken the show to another that I grew up with, Animaniacs, and despite the initial view of being a "girl" show and admittedly originally intended as a long toy commercial, the show itself is full of snappy writing, outstanding characters, terrific animation and full of geek references.

Don't believe me? The second episode of Season 2 ends with a Star Wars episode that also featured John de Lancie ("Q" from Star Trek) as a guest voice.

And I think a reviewer said it best in an iTunes review: "Admiral Ackbar says: 'Our masculinity can't repel cuteness of this magnitude!"

It's a personal discovery that no one's above forming misguided preconceptions about anything.

You know it's true.

I find it somewhat funny, that while we live in the so-called "Information Age", that people are just as misinformed as they've always been. The only difference is that the technology allows people to shout a bit louder.

So first, I wanted to apologize to my friend (you know who you are) and secondly, re-iterate my point and bring this entire topic full circle.

If you see something about a game, or even a show, book or movie and think you can instantly glean every possible detail about the entire thing from a small sliver of information, don't. You probably can't and you'll likely be wrong. If you want to work on an opinion of something, look into all elements of the production. Look at the pedigree of the game, genre, style, developer team. Use that as a springboard.

Then, as more information comes down, add that to what you've observed and thought of before. If you have to enter panic mode before you get the whole picture, then something's wrong.

Well, that's it for now. as always, if you have a comment or question, either e-mail me or leave a comment here.

Til' next time peeps, game on and take care.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

STO Reborn Episode 1

Hey peeps!

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been working to establish a small new game community (, catching up on Lotus Fleet RPing ( and a costume for the 20-11 Star Trek Convention:

But I'm back and this post is going to be a doosy.

For anyone that doesn't know, Star Trek Online is going free to play "soon". (That's Cryptic "Soon" so it can be any point from now until judgement day.) So this gamer decided that now is maybe the time to give my two cents and start playing the game from the beginning again on the game's free to play test server to not only see what's changed, but to also test out any of the newer implementations they've put into it.

Of course, I'll also be making fun of it.

All right, so I decided to go with a Tactical Joined Trill character named Aunred. After the game crashed in the Character Creator twice, of course. But remember, Beta is Beta, so I give them a degree of benefit of the doubt.

The first thing I noticed was the different starting area. Keep in mind I haven't really played through the game in nearly a year and a half, so if they changed this recently, then I wouldn't know. But the new starting area is much better than starting you off in the damn bar where your fellow crewmembers are drinking booze and such.

(Yes, I'm aware of the typo.)

Then you report to the new bridge. This is somewhat odd, though, as now the bridge appears to be similar to a Sovereign-class bridge, although you're still on a Miranda-type light cruiser...This kind of gave me false hope that they'd actually altered a particular story moment so that it wasn't as terrible, but I'll talk about that later.

So I beamed aboard the USS Khitomer and the training levels proceed exactly the same as they did before. The only difference being the shooter controls they introduced in Season 4. I also noticed updated animation on the female so that she didn't look like a flailing marionette when running anymore. So that's a plus.

The other thing I noticed was how all the Borg were clones! Oh no! Not only are we being invaded by Borg, but they're multiplying like Tribbles!

The shooter controls are the same as I've said before. They add nothing to the game, really, aside from a slightly faster response for combat. The faster combat would be more interesting if the enemies you fought actually had any degree of intelligence at all. Yes, the enemies in STO are still complete morons. Even moreso than the baddies in other MMOs.

But I digress from the report.

I run through the rest of the Khitomer section and then come to the second worst part of the tutorial section (Besides the atrocious voice acting by Zachary Quinto *shudder*).

Yes, the off screen slaughter of every officer on board your ship leaving you, the only ensign remaining apparently, in charge of the ship. There were so many other things that could have been done to get you into the flight chair and I've heard they're adjusting the starting mission so it's not quite as terrible, but for the time being I can only gauge it on this.

And by gauge, I mean condemn it's plot-based stupidity.

Ships still look damn good, though:

So the rest of the tutorial proceeds as it did before, so I'll skip past that.

Then I transferred to Starbase 10...and the game froze at the loading screen. But again, Beta is Beta, I found it more funny than annoying.

Went to Starbase 10, nothing majorly different. Enjoyed my Trill's new running animation some more and got the first mission, Stranded in Space.

Here's a quick moment to talk about the game's new mission panel. While it is quite a bit more organized, which is a plus, it also contains summaries and information about future missions. I find that while this is useful for older players, it could possibly give spoilers and plot information to new players. With the whole free to play conversion being meant to bring in new players, I can see this being a bit of a problem.

One thing I am thankful for, though, is that they sped up the leveling from Lt. to Lt. Cdr. Since 80% of the game is grinding the same content and baddies, being able to do that in a better ship faster is a definite plus.

As for the mission Stranded in Space, it's the same mission we've all done multiple times before, only with added cutscenes that add nothing to the gameplay. And I love the massively huge rifle in the hands of my normal sized Trill.

So, conclusion for now, same old, same old. Nothing majorly redeeming or new for the game to this point. Hopefully the next episode will contain my main reason for doing this, the Duty Officer system.

Until next time, peeps, game on and take care.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

MMOs I'm Watching, Testing and Playing (July 7)

Hey peeps.

Sorry for the lack of posts, been working on a few other projects, including the show and podcasting.

I thought I'd make this post about what my current MMO status is.

As far as actively playing, I'm not dedicated full time to anything currently. My World of Warcraft time is probably going to pick up as I work to gear up my main for his healing spec to help out my raid team. As much as I hate to admit it, the recent change to allowing raiding gear to be purchased with justice points in WoW is going to help immensely towards that end. I'm also going to work more on unlocking Firelands content, if only to better mesh the phasing with my raiding buddies.

I haven't picked up Rift in awhile. Probably my biggest issue with it at current is the lack of direction. Which I guess can be a good thing. But the issues with the game's overall accessability has been an issue from day one. It tends to kind of throw many concepts at you before you can digest the last ones it sent your way. As I've said, it's not a bad game, but right now just not up my alley. I'll see if there's been any content additions lately and get back to you.

I also re-activated my City of Heroes account. With the free-to-play announcement, using an f2p system that in my opinion is probably very equal to Lord of the Rings Online's plan, I think it'll really help the game out. This isn't to say that the f2p model should be adopted by everyone. There's room for both subscription and f2p. The thing with subs is that support needs to be active and on a larger scale than f2p games. The graphical style and gameplay is still fun, but I admittedly still feel somewhat underwhelmed by the character creator after using Champions Online's. Although at least with CoH you actually get a decent game with a good CC.

I've also picked up a bit of League of Legends. It's a good diversion and I usually try to do one or two games a day. It's mostly against bots right now because one thing that annoys me are the conniving douchebags that I've heard permeate the PvP aspect. I'll see about doing some games and getting them uploaded to my channel.

As for testing, I tried the beta for World of the Living Dead ( and promptly got my ass kicked and all my people killed. This is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. If I decide to pick it up again, I'll have to dig around to figure out what the hell I have to do next. It's a browser based game from an indie developer, so I suggest you at least check it out. Just don't expect Left 4 Dead the MMO, you will die.

I also signed up for the Betas of The Secret World ( and Dragon Soul ( The former is kind of a World of Darkness meets Hellgate: London that boasts a lack of classes and levels. Based on the information I've read, that's only partially correct as the inherent "level grind" seems to merely be disguised as a reputation grind. The latter looks to be more like an Asian-style grindfest, but seems interesting enough, why not?

Speaking of Hellgate, I signed up for and got entry into the Open Beta. I've never played the original game, but from what I've played of this it's pretty entertaining if one can get past the multitude of typos and instability of the servers. The combat is action-based and it's always good to see your attacks actually have an impact on your foes.

As for watching, the primary ones are still Guild Wars 2 and The Old Republic, although I'm coming to expect far more from Guild Wars 2 than TOR. Don't get me wrong, I'm still excited about TOR and as of this writing I still have every intention of playing it, but the gameplay still seems to be very much hotkey based. The main saving grace of it will likely be the story and the setting. Which is fine. I go into every MMO with the expectation to at minimum have enough content to last the first month. It's up to the devs as to whether or not the subscription continues.

What appeals to me now about Guild Wars 2 is that while it's still a fantasy MMO, it seems to be attempting to create an actual full world where decisions have consequences and the world changes with your character. I haven't seen too much about the combat as of yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Well, that's it for now. I have a few other post ideas I'm going to try to get to writing.

Until next time, game on and take care peeps,


Friday, June 10, 2011

First Episode of The Bullheaded Gamer Webseries!

Here it is! The very first episode of The Bullheaded Gamer webseries!

I admit it's a bit rough around the edges, but I'm working on it. I hope you enjoy it!

<embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="300" wmode="transparent" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" ></embed>

Here's the link in case the embed doesn't work:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Brink: Preliminary Report

I have learned much in my years as a gamer.

The first and most important lesson is to always temper your expectations. It's okay to be excited, but don't let your ideas of what you think a game will be overpower the reality of what game designers are able to accomplish.

To that end, I approached Brink with an open mindset. The previews I've read were relatively favorable and it looked like a decent game. Team-based combat with character customization and shiny graphics. Seemed at the very least it'd be a good game to play for a bit.

Now let me preface this, as always, by saying that I'm playing this on my PC and the results may be different from those of console players.

The reason I'm calling this a preliminary report because I've found that I cannot continue with a full review in the game's current state. In fact, I'd rather not because I'm not sure if it's technical or the fault of the game, but my initial opinion of Brink is not a good one.

From the start you're told to choose a side. Being one of the people that bought into All Points Bulletin (A Cops and Robbers MMO that lasted almost exactly two months from launch), I thought this would have far more impact on gameplay than it actually does. In fact, you can switch between both factions at will.

The Security faction in the game are the "Cops" of the Ark, a massive floating city. Their rivals are the Resistance "Robbers". The Security wants to save the city, the Resistance wants to abandon it. It's a generic story and from what I've seen, doesn't become anymore complex.

As far as the character customization goes, it's more limited than I expected. You can't directly edit your character, only select from preset faces and skin tones. And, sorry ladies, no females at all, at least that I've seen.

The apparent "story" is told through short cutscenes between NPC squadmembers between Campaign missions. The voice acting is cheesy, but it more or less fits in with the stylization of the overall game. However, don't go into this game expecting to play solo. The AI of Team Fortress 2 could run circles around the idiocy of the game's AI.

The meat of the game is in its objective-based multiplayer and that part of the game is decent. As I stated at the outset, technical difficulties have prevented me from really exploring this area of the game, however from the articles I've read it seems that multiplayer lag actually is an ongoing issue.

The gameplay itself is extremely familiar if you've played any team-based game, well, ever, especially TF2. You have four roles, soldier, medic, engineer and operative. The soldier handles ammo, the medic heals and revives, the engineer buffs weapons and the operative can disguise himself like the enemy faction.

The shooting handles like a blend between TF2 and Modern Warfare, there's only one downside to the gunplay that, frankly, kills any modern shooter's gameplay: absolutely no location-based damage. If I shoot a person in the face, they need to die.

Although this plays into the gameplay by allowing medics to revive fallen soldiers, it creates the un-needed annoyance of having to go through rooms full of enemy team members you already dropped and shoot them while they writhe in pain on the ground. Something I think unintentially adds a dark turn to what seems to be billing itself as a bit of a more lightsided shooter.

I mean, you're going through and executing wounded and dying enemy soldiers...kinda off-putting in a way. But your alternative to doing that is leaving a bunch of wounded enemies behind you on your way to an objective so they can be revived by an enemy medic and flank you.

Putting that aside, there's a large variety of guns but they don't seem to have the variety one would expect. The SMGs handle similarly to the ARs and the shotguns aren't all that effective, but perhaps that'll change with upgrades.

As to the feel of multiplayer itself, that's the primary area that's affecting my ability to confidently review the game and it ties directly in with technical issues.

I'm playing Brink on a new Asus laptop with a great graphics card, an ATI. There has yet to be a game released this year that I cannot play at near max settings. However, even when I lower Brink to it's barebones settings, I have framerate and lag issues.

Looking into the forums, it seems like Brink is not playing well with my graphics card, although other reviews I've read say there's technical issues in the game itself.

So what I'm going to essentially do, is give Brink a few days to see if they release an update that'll hopefully address this issue. If they don't, then by the end of the week I'll pass my official verdict on the game based on the information I'm actually able to gather.

As for right now, I'm going to recommend to everyone reading this that you avoid Brink for the time being. While it tries really hard to be a cutting edge, team objective-based shooter, it seems that it isn't able to follow through on anything.

Stay tuned here for an update and verdict later in the week.

Until then, game on and take care.

Friday, May 6, 2011

DLC, Microtransactions and Free Updates

If there's one thing that has been working to divide and galvanize the gamer populace, it is the rise of the microtransaction.

For those unfamiliar with the idea, a microtransaction (MT) is a service or additional item added to an already released game for the owners of said game for a fee smaller than the original purchase price. The items can range from harmless non-combat pets to entire classes and areas in the case of free-to-play (F2P) MMOs.

The conflict among gamers arises with the debate over when gamers should be charged for additional content, how much should be charged and whether or not companies should even charge for additional content at all.

I'll start by saying this, I have little problem with developers and publishers having the right to have MTs. It's their game, their product and as long as the initial product we bought and paid for is complete without the addition of these items, then no harm no foul.

The place I really start to get angry is when you can tell at a game's launch that elements were ripped from it solely for the purpose of charging MTs. The most notorious recent example of this are the removed outfits and dyes from Fable 3. It was obvious that dyes like the color black were missing from the shelf totally with the knowledge that people would pay for it later.

This sort of event is why MTs have terrible reputations and those who utilize them are labeled as money hungry sadists with no respect for their fans and customers. Although I have to lay a good amount of blame at the foot of the publishers too. It's more than likely that these sorts of scenarios were put into place only because of publisher pressure rather than the developer's personal desires to be as evil as possible.

 However, MTs aren't necessarily terrible...when done right.

When it comes to F2P MMOs, then MTs are perfectly suited to that style of subscription. The one caveat to this is that the full game needs to be equally accessible to everyone. Let's take Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO) as an example, being that it's currently the front runner F2P MMO. (I'm not going to be addressing social games in this post, that will have another all to itself.)

When you subscribe to the game, you have a substantial chunk of area to explore. You also have all classes leveling and developing the same as those classes that belong to paying customers. The path diverges a bit with the MTs. The MTs they offer include additional classes and new zones in addition to less major items like pets and mounts.

The place this gets rocky is when you're already paying a subscription and additional items are launched as MTs. As I said above, this works with F2P games. But when you're still paying a subscription and they ask you to pay more for items that you should have access to anyway, it's not a good thing. Especially when these items could in some way upset the balance. It's at that point that gameplay comes down to who has the larger wallet. If I'm paying a subscription, then I should have the exact same opportunities as everyone else paying a subscription. (Note: I'll expand upon the subject of equal opportunities in MMOs at a later date.)

The bottom line of this is, MTs should not gimp you in any way if you decide to skip them. They should add to the experience, like the expansion packs of yore.

But there's a point where it starts to really grate on my nerves, like the Fable example above, and that's adding things purely for the quick buck. One of these pet peeves involves the idea of selling map packs.

Recent shooters such as Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops are guilty of this, as are many others. They charge you 5-15 dollars for 2-3 additional multiplayer maps. It is quite obvious that these are implemented solely for the idea of making additional funds.

I understand part of this is because of certain XBox Live policies. But when they do the same thing on Steam, it rings alarm bells. Speaking of Steam, Valve just recently announced that all updates to Portal 2, on ALL consoles will be free of charge.

I rejoiced immensely at this news. First, because it cements Valve as one of the best developers of this gaming generation and second because they're throwing down the gauntlet to other developers who are charging for map packs and add-ons.

THIS is how you support a launched game. THIS is how you give add ins to those who already purchased your product and Valve deserves massive kudos for treating it's playerbase with such respect.

That all being said, what is the final verdict?

To put it bluntly, it is entirely the developer's right to launch as ask for money for DLC. It's somewhat unfortunate, but it's true. We as the consumer have to pay with our wallets and tell them, "Hell no. I'm not paying five bucks for black dye. How about you put it in my game when I buy it?" We also have a responsibility to point at Valve and say, "See? They can do it, why can't you? What's stopping you?"

DLC is here to stay and it's our responsibility to shape what that DLC is from this point onwards.

Game on and take care.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Portal 2 Review

The original Portal was a landmark game. It seemingly came out of nowhere and started as just a side project to see just what the Source Engine was capable of. It came out as a tie in to the Half-Life 2 anthology "The Orange Box".

Shortly after releasing though, it became a phenomenon and topped many game of the year lists for 2007. The song "Still Alive" was all over YouTube and "the cake is a lie" became both an internet meme and a statement in the overall gamer dictionary and GLaDOS topped several video game villain lists.

Fast forward 4 years later to now.

The eagerly awaited sequel has come out and does it live up to the hype or is it another disappointment?

I tell you this now, eager readers, you must play this game. I'm serious, stop reading this and find a way to obtain a copy to play, hopefully through legitimate means.

This game, as of now, is my favorite game to come out this year, possibly one of my favorite games to come out in a long time.

We'll start at the most important element in any game, gameplay. How does Portal 2 play?

Short answer: If you played Portal, then absolutely nothing has changed in Portal 2. The controls are the same, the overall premise is about the same, you maneuver from room to room trying to get from Point A to Point B using your loyal Portal Gun and in most cases the environment itself.

Where it succeeds here, though, is in its execution. The puzzles are brilliantly tricky, not brain wracking, but not so simple you blow through them effortlessly. I only had one instance where I had to look for the solution, but most of the time I'd study a puzzle before I facepalmed because the exact solution was in front of me the whole time.

The whole gameplay experience is framed by a hilarious and extremely well-written story that puts most other big budget games to shame. Stephen Merchant and Ellen McLain are superb in their roles of Wheatly and GLaDOS, respectively. Wheatly is a new AI you encounter as an ally near the very beginning of the game and accompanies you as you go through the now degrading Aperature Science Facility.
However, as the song says, GLaDOS is still alive and you'll find yourself fighting for your survival in both the rebuilt Aperture Labs and descend to the very guts of the facility.

There'll be no spoilers here, but know here and now that you will eagerly solve puzzle after puzzle if only to reach the next story point.

Helping to tell the story are Portal 2's gorgeous graphics. Between the lighting and environments, there's always something to see and look at. From small signs informing you that robots are superior to humans to the rays of sunlight streaming through the crushed and cracked ceilings of Aperture Science, you'll find moments you just stop and look around, studying all aspects of the world around you.

As of this writing, I have not yet participated in the Co-Op mode of the game, so this review excludes that aspect. I will be putting up a review of that portion of the game as soon as I am able to play through it.

All in all, Portal 2 is not only a great game, but a great experience. Any gamer with any dignity needs to play this game and appreciate the great care and love that the developers poured into this product.

If I had to say one bad thing about this otherwise terrific game, it's that the loading screens are frequent and very noticeable, but you'll learn to forgive them knowing that each loading screen will bring you to yet another fun and intellectual experience.

This game gets a perfect 10 from me and I highly recommend it to anyone. I have no doubt we'll see a Portal 3 eventually, but as of this moment, Valve is near the very top of my personal developer hierarchy. Portal 2 is a value we as gamers cannot allow to pass.

So, until next time, peeps, game on and take care.

Note: Photos are taken from's Portal 2 section.