GWJ Conference Call Episode 409
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 August 2014, 12:35 am

Episode 409 - August 13th, 2014
Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2 Impressions, Wasteland 2 Beta, Rise of Flight, Fallout New Vegas, Elite Beta, An Interview With Mike Mearls on D&D 5th Edition, Your Emails and More!

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(A Rifty 45.8 MBs, 1:20:03)

This week D&D 5th edition lead designer Mike Mearls sits down with Julian to talk about the new D&D!

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Longevity
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 August 2014, 9:24 pm

I’ve spent the better part of the past week wandering the vast wastelands of a post-apocalyptic Nevada in Fallout: New Vegas. Aside from the shocking depth of content provided by the long, bloody trek, I find myself startled at how well the game holds up.

Had you asked me a few days ago how long it’s been since Fallout: New Vegas was released, I’d have likely guessed it probably came out sometime in 2012. In fact, New Vegas hit store shelves all the way back in 2010, and is rapidly approaching its fourth birthday. By extension, the graphics engine on which the game is built is closing in on its sixth birthday. Yet, I feel in no way like I’m playing an outdated or old game.

By contrast, if you revisit the games we recently covered as part of 1994 week, and look at the games that came out six years later, you see the huge leap between Doom 2 and No One Lives Forever, between Ultima VIII and Icewind Dale, between the first System Shock and Deus Ex. These were genuinely transformative leaps.

We’ve talked a lot about the way the differences between generations are becoming more nuanced, but there’s an after-effect of this that I hadn’t really thought all the way through. It’s not just that games visuals aren’t advancing at the same rate, but the gameplay systems themselves are similarly stabilizing, meaning that the game I buy today will likely be functionally similar enough to games in 2020 that I’ll barely recognize a difference.

On the downside, I’ll miss the days of rapid evolution and expansion. On the upside, I can safely wait a few years before I play a game, and not really miss out on that much.

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August 11 – August 17
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 August 2014, 11:13 am

It's been a helluva year for PC Role Playing Games, and there's still a few to go. While Deep Silver brought us a disappointing Sacred 3 last week, seven days heals all wounds. At least, I hope.

With legacy rooted in the old Gothic game series, Risen 3 by Piranha Bytes and published by Deep Silver hits PCs this week. Characterized as a classic PC RPG that challenges players and opens a living world for them to explore, Risen 3 is the latest in a series of games that seem to be stoking a revolution against games that hold players' hands.

With Wasteland 2 still upwards of a month from its official release, I certainly wouldn't be complaining if Risen 3 jumped in to bridge the gap between the exceptional Divinity: Original Sin and the upcoming Wasteland reboot. So Risen 3 gets my nod for Game of the Week. Here's hoping it delivers.

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The Jobs Cast - Episode 4
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 August 2014, 11:31 am

This week Sean Sands and Shawn Andrich talk about moving up in the job world and adjusting to your new role.

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Dungeons & Dragons: Players Handbook, 5th Edition
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 August 2014, 6:26 pm

“Why do we have to move?” I asked.

In my head, I can hear the tone of my voice. It’s hard to listen to. I’m actually whining.

“It’s not fair!” I screamed, and stormed out of the house. I grabbed my backpack from the station wagon and headed down the hill, across the field, and to the horse barn. I scrambled up the hay elevator and found a corner by the window. It was hot. The air was full of hay dust. It stung my eyes. I told myself that’s why they were wet.

It didn't matter much. I opened up my backpack and grabbed the book.

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Gamers Gonna Game
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 August 2014, 10:17 pm

GWJ staff regularly receive questions that presuppose that there is a correct way to play games, some prescribed method of gamerhood. Given the various pressures of time, energy and finance — not to mention social pressures from those who cast games in a negative light — it's only natural that we, as adult gamers, sometimes fret about whether we are navigating those pressures as effectively or appropriately as we might.

We at GWJ have, over time, become comfortable with a few standard responses: If you're not having fun, stop playing. If you're not really interested in playing games right now, then don't. It's important to have ways to relax and unwind, within the limitations of our responsibilities elsewhere; within that context, being a gamer is nothing to be ashamed of.

But what exactly is a "gamer"?

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August 4 - August 10
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 August 2014, 10:43 am

The Week Ahead comes to you this week a day late and with a long list of games I've generally never heard of.

I was hoping that I'd have good cause to call our Sacred 3 this week as the Game of the Week, but instead I've read and heard nothing but bad news about the game over the past week. Your Spidey-Sense should immediately tingle when games embargo reviews until the day of the game's release. That same sense should start screaming when said game stealth releases a day or two before the embargo lifts. Technically this is not even a release for this week, as it's already out and disappointing people around the globe.

There's a big list of releases this week, most of which I've frankly never heard of. Victory at Sea and Frontline: Road to Moscow seem like intriguing strategy options, but I think I'll give the Game of the Week Ultra Street Fighter 4.

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The Quiet House
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 July 2014, 1:17 pm

My wife and two kids are visiting the grandparents on the Gulf Coast for the last two weeks and the next two to come. While I was able to join them for the first week of the journey, I came home some ten days ago so I could get back to work. Since then, I’ve had the house to myself.

When I get home from work tonight, the Xbox controller will be exactly where I left it. My PC will be waiting in its idle state exactly as it had been when I turned off my game last night. There will be no new dishes in the sink. The downstairs room will still be clean, and there will still be plenty of milk left in the fridge. You can see the jealousy in the eyes of some of my co-workers when I mention that I’ve got my place to myself for a month and describe this kind of existence. They’re absolutely right to be jealous.

I have two boys whom I dearly love, but there are days where I pull into the garage and I can hear them crashing and shouting through the house before I even get through the door. I know when I push through into the foyer, I will be greeted with chaos. There will be a wet swimsuit perplexingly left on the stairs, or there will be a small, unexpected pile of Goldfish crackers crushed under my son’s beanbag chair, or there will be a pup tent fully set up in the living room with my boys swinging flashlights at each other inside like they’re lightsabers.

Today I will come home and the cat will quietly pad toward me to verify my identity, and that will be the extent of the chaos. It will be glorious, and also a little sad.

Living on my own is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

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GWJ Conference Call Episode 407
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 July 2014, 12:35 am

Episode 407 - July 30th, 2014
Divinity: Original Sin Finished, Elite: Dangerous Beta, Freedom Planet, Walking Dead Season 2, Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas , Are Games a Little Broken a Little Better?, Your Emails and More!

Right Click Here and 'Save As' to Download!
(Strappy 42.9 MBs, 1:14:51)

Join Shawn, Elysium, Julian, Allen and Rob Zacny as they debate whether or not games are a bit better when they're a little broken.

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July 28 - August 3
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 July 2014, 10:13 am

I honestly had to do a kind of mental double take when I saw that Firefall releases, finally, this week. Announced four years ago at PAX, I've since seen Firefall in a variety of iterations and it has always felt like a cool idea that just needed a little more time to bake. The times I played I would think, this seems like it should be good, so why am I not having fun?

I've been rooting for Red 5 Studios for years, but if I'm honest I packed up Firefall and largely forgot about it some time ago. Now seeing that it's made the long journey to release I'm both pleased and a little ambivalent.

I had considered briefly giving game of the week instead to The Last of Us Remastered which releases on PS4 this week, but then I remembered that if they'd just made this generation's consoles backwards compatible then people might not have to shell out another $50 to play it on a new system. It's funny how game makers seem to not think there's enough of a market out there looking to play last gen games on this gen equipment, but then suddenly there is enough of a market to re-release last gen games at this gen prices.

I've already had multiple occasions when I wished my Xbox One could play my 360 games, and I still have a functioning 360 attached to my TV. It's annoying as hell that backwards compatibility has become a non-starter for Sony and Microsoft, and if they think I'm going promote their philosophy of artificially stripping functionality so they can double-charge fans of a game that was released _last freakin' year_ for a "remastered" version at full price, they can go suck an egg.

Anyway, my point is Firefall is the game of the week.

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Divinity: Original Sin
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 24 July 2014, 2:45 pm

Divinity: Original Sin may be the best RPG of its kind in years.

It is smartly written, patiently paced, fun to play and hard enough that success feels like an accomplishment. Set in a complicated world that developer Larian Studios has been tinkering with for years, its narrative comes with a rich lore already in place and an easy confidence in its history and foundations.

To say that I recommend Divinity: Original Sin is an understatement. As far as computer role-playing games go, this particular one threatens to steal a place in my mind on the shelf with games like Baldur’s Gate, Ultima VII, Planescape: Torment and Fallout 2. Though I’m not ready to crown it to those heights yet — I’ll need a year or two to ruminate on whether it really achieves that level of greatness — it has passed the first initial gates to get into the running.

I do wonder, though, whether at least part of what makes Divinity so great in the modern age is simply a function of how few games do what it does anymore. It is in some ways as though Divinity is a game that was created mostly in 1996, and fell through a crack in time to the year 2014, where Larian simply added all the technical whiz-bangery of the modern age. There is a sensibility to the game that doesn’t really exist anymore in most western RPGS — or most games for that matter — a sensibility that by its nature spoon-feeds you nothing, but rewards you time and again for just being smart enough to figure the world out.

Divinity’s most daring aspect may simply be that it is unapologetic in demanding the player put in a meaningful effort to succeed. In a way, as a gamer, it’s just nice to be treated as an adult.

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Practical Problems
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 July 2014, 5:23 pm

"How to get your significant other/older relative/etc to play a game" is a pretty common topic in gaming circles. And we have all sorts of advice in various threads about what games are the best gateway games and how to go about leading them down the garden path from there. However, we rarely talk about a real dragon that's snoozing away in the middle of the living room: the person's hardware.

An acquaintance I ran into walking the dog just hit my sore spot. He's upset because he can't get his girlfriend interested in playing games. He's tried several and gotten nowhere fast. He topped off his litany with a lament that she wouldn't even play Minecraft with him.

He's a PC gamer, which makes things both easier and harder. Easier because you don't have to convince the significant other to buy yet another piece of expensive hardware and all its trimmings to get them playing. However, that doesn't let you off the hook the way you think it might.

This became clear when I asked him a simple question. What were the specs of her computer?

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July 21 - July 27
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 July 2014, 12:47 pm

The Walking Dead S2:E4 lands this week on PC, 360 and PS3, carrying on with a franchise that feels like it might be running out of gas. That could just be me, though. I never got all the way on board with The Walking Dead in any of its multiple formats.

I think it's the zombies. As a beloved menace, only vampires seems to gather more prime-time visibility, but I just don't love zombies the way it seems so many others do. I've passed on most of the great zombie flicks, avoided many of the games and, with the exception of World War Z, have read no novels — graphic or otherwise.

I don't have some huge indictment or complaint about tales of zombies, except maybe that it feels like the same story told over and over and over again. I even get that zombie stories are in many ways not really about the monsters, but about us. I see the cool metaphors wrapped into the slow, dead, inexorable doom of the zombie apocalypse. It just doesn't usually grab me.

Games like Dead Rising, Dead Island, Resident Evil and even The Walking Dead — all games I've played — have usually been something I spend a couple hours with and move on. Doesn't mean they're not great games, just games where inevitably the thought of another zombie or another dealing with the problems of a world overrun with zombies sounded like a job perfectly crafted for someone else to deal with.

Which is how I've come to think of The Walking Dead. It sounds like a terrific story and engaging experience that someone else is expertly suited to deal with. Enjoy.

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Earthbound, Never Homebound
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 July 2014, 12:26 pm

Our brief glimpse into 1994 allowed me to relive a part of my life when things were comfortable and simple. The biggest concern I had was usually what to watch on the new cable system, when to finish my homework, or how I would pay for the newest issue of EGM. It was a time when my world was a few blocks big, arcade machines and comic books where everywhere, and where worries about career, life, and love were abstract, incomprehensible fictions in the face of the playground. 1994 was the last hurrah of childhood—of games during recess, of choosing sides in the Nintendo vs. Sega battle, of pizza, sleepovers and friends. When 1995 rolled over, I had lost family members, lost the friends that had been my elementary school life, and was, more and more, being pushed towards adolescence. 1995 brought quiet school days spent on the bleachers reading, a wardrobe of fat-concealing vests (handy for pockets as well as confidence), and the inexplicable afternoons where I would lock myself away, curl up, and just cry.

Somewhere along 1995’s march to middle school, I ran across EarthBound. That’s not entirely true, though. I had known of EarthBound because of the publisher’s extensive marketing campaign, which leaked a number of ads into Nintendo Power as a lead up to its release. As with other games I knew I would never own, EB was recognizable but not formed. I knew it was an RPG, in a time when Lunar: The Silver Star and Final Fantasy II/III were the only RPGs I cared for. I knew that it had gorgeously quirky Claymation ads, which weren’t part of the game proper. And probably most importantly, there were a number of Scratch-n-Sniff promos for the game that made everything just so silly.

It was a game with humor, and a game that smelled. That's what I knew. Now grown, I understand the importance of sense memory – how, neurologically, scents can enhance recall and, when paired with an experience, cause moments in our histories to become inexplicably conjoined. But as a child, smelly ad stickers were probably the best way to get my attention.

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Long War Diaries: The Operatives
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 July 2014, 1:02 pm

This article is part of a series on the "Long War" mod for XCOM: Enemy Within. You can read Part One and Part Two at Polygon.

"Long War" and I are on a break.

My war against the aliens is dragging on, but I am slowly making progress. By accumulating new scientists and engineers, I've been able to advance the research and development of new weapons and armor, and my genetic-engineering and mech-building facilities are currently under construction.

I'm still having trouble keeping high-ranking squad members healthy and available, but I will soon have advanced beam weapons, improved fighter-plane capabilities and a slew of other soldier and equipment upgrades. If I can hold on for just another month, I suspect the tide will turn in my favor. But it will be a long, torturous month.

A big part of that torture is EXALT — the enemy humans who sympathize with the invading aliens. I've located the EXALT base. I have deployed a squad to destroy it. I have failed. I have failed seven times. I am being broken.

And so: I'm on a break.

Which makes this a perfect time to take a few steps back and share with you the highlights of my murderous assault on EXALT, so that you may know and understand exactly why, when it comes to EXALT, I don't want to merely win. I want to decisively end them.

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Star Fox
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 July 2014, 6:44 pm

For weeks I had gone back to the video rental store, denied my birthright of playing the brand new Star Fox recently released by Nintendo. Since it came out, we went every Sunday after church since, and every time it was the same. Some other kid had rented it out already. Finally, just in time for summer vacation, the game was available. I could be that lucky child renting it out and depriving any other youth the pleasure of sweet, polygonal dog-fighting action.

With the unrelenting excitement that comes standard to most seven-year olds, I smashed that gray cartridge into the Super Nintendo, struck the power button, and then ... sat back and prepared to zone out with my eyes glued to the television screen. In hindsight, maybe my father wasn't such a fan of video games because my expressions often resembled those of the hippie stoners he had gone to high school with.

I was hooked from the opening animation, pupils tracking the cinematic display of ships getting gunned down by a menacing spacecraft that descended towards a beautiful blue planet. Fighter vessels burst from the carrier like bees from a hive, a stray craft turning to fly towards the player. The music pulled me right into a movie theater, bombastic and epic during the title screen, yet so calm and serene for the settings menu. I played through the tutorial, quickly learned that I was not yet ready to comprehend inverted-flight controls, and then launched into this interstellar adventure.

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July 14 - July 20
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 July 2014, 12:09 pm

Once again the big man himself, Sean "The Splugorth" Sands, vacates the offices just in time to leave a rather quiet, uneventful week in the lap of some poor shmuck with too much time on their hands. (In other words: me.)

There's not a lot to work with this week, especially having to dig into some of the less-than-stellar sources of information that are not always accurate. If the Internet is to be believed, Saint's Row IV: National Treasure Edition either comes out this week, was already released last week, or simply does not exist.

You know what does exist? Abyss Odyssey, my pick for Game of the Week. For some, the title will be noteworthy as being developed by the same folks that brought you Rock of Ages and Zeno Clash, but for me it's the fact that the game is being published by Atlus. That typically means that the game is set apart from its competitors by doing something quirky, different, interesting, or any combination of those three.

If you like the idea of plunging into the depths of the Earth as a warlock's nightmares become reality, where the enemies you encounter have in-depth move sets and the game's state changes based on how well the community has fought against the mask of the warlock, then Abyss Odyssey is probably a game worth your attention. Personally, they had me with a character named "Ghost Monk."

As for last week, if you're wondering what you might have missed while we traveled back through time twenty years, it turns out the final episode of The Wolf Among Us came out. Otherwise, you just missed out on some other platform rereleases for Another World and One Piece: Unlimited World Red. So a typically slow July.

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GWJ Plays: The Sega Channel! (1994 Week)
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 July 2014, 12:02 am




Mortal Kombat II
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 July 2014, 6:22 pm

Mortal Kombat kind of sneaked into my life out of nowhere. I know that’s hard to believe, now that it’s a juggernaut in the arcades, on home consoles, and (if rumors are right) soon to be a Hollywood hit. But it’s true. There was a time when "Mortal Kombat" was just a misspelled phrase to me. Street Fighter II has been my arcade beat-em up of choice since I laid hands on it in my neighborhood Pizza Hut, so it’s been hard for another brawler to take up residence in my memory banks. Getting the hang of a Dragon Punch is hard enough. Learning a whole new set of fighters and moves is too much! MK was such a non-event that it took my Uncle to snap me to the realization that there was a new game on the block that was worthy of my quarters and mindshare.

“Have you heard about this Mortal Kombat game?” he asked one afternoon as we were sanding and painting the corner house. “I walked by your cousin’s room and I heard some guy yell ‘Get out of here!’ so I walked in to see what he was watching.”

“It’s ‘Get Over Here’, by the way! And the "guy" is a hell ninja out for vengeance”, my cousin piped up from the room next door, where he was sulkily cleaning the bathroom grout. The teen years were giving him an extra case of the moodies when it came to my Uncle.

I thought a flaming yellow skull ninja was a funny thing to argue over, but it was pretty much the first time Mortal Kombat became A Big Thing to me. During sleepovers with my cousin, it became one of the staple games we turned to (after Contra, of course). I could always count on him for a MK match. And while I can not say I was ever any good at it, the story behind the game was just as intriguing as those Hong Kong chop-socky flicks we would watch in the 11 pm limbo of late night television.

And one day, our of nowhere, I saw Mortal Kombat II sitting in a corner of a 7-11 one sunny afternoon!

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Brothers, Princes, Kings
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 July 2014, 6:48 pm

"My royal rump is sore," Edgar moaned. Even as he complained, he flashed a pearly white smile. The entourage broke into laughter, snapping at the reins of their mounts. Chocobos, feathers of gold shining brighter in the hot desert sun, bounded across the dunes towards Castle Figaro.

"So you are the pampered princeling after all," the Captain grunted. There were gaps separating his yellow teeth. "Fair-faced and pale skinned, just as the ladies of court prefer."

"Aye," a subordinate called out from behind. "They say the other is the real man o' the two."

"He certainly has the sandy chin to prove it," Edgar smirked. Yes, he was the handsome one, but he was no spoiled child. He understood this game of theirs. It was a test to see just what kind of man Edgar was. If he took offense to the jest, he was no fellow of theirs. If you smile, laugh, and own up to these accusations, you prove yourself worthy of such company.

Were Sabin here in his stead, posterior bouncing upon the back of this bird of burden, they would find some other way to test his virtue. Perhaps they'd send his naive sibling on a fool's errand, lost in the caverns or forest while the rest had slept and handled business back at the village. Or perhaps they'd send his mount back to its home, forcing him to walk the rest of the way. Knowing Sabin, he'd do it, too. He'd die on those sands, proud, never having given in to their japes.

"The other will make a good general," the captain suddenly stated rather solemnly. It wasn't optimistic speculation, though Edgar was certain it was intended to be taken thusly. The young prince knew the truth, however.

Edgar's hand reached into his pocket, his finger caressing the two-faced coin that his father had once given him. The King's demise was near, and a successor had yet to be named.

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X-Wing
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 July 2014, 2:38 am

"Whu-wheeew!"

My roommate's upward-inflecting R2D2 whistle tells me it's time to quit being so evasive.

Using my left hand to steady the joystick on my desk, I cut hard to starboard and roll around to harry the last TIE Fighter. I have to go on the offensive — R2 has made the executive decision to drain my shields, diverting the power to my lasers for a few more shots. The joystick creaks from repeated direction changes (you can't make me say jerked) as the TIE fighter evades my reticule with its tighter turning circle. My next two shots are impatient and spray wide. I've got maybe one more chance. Wrestling the crosshairs forward of the TIE fighter's flight path, I hold my breath, like a biathlete, and fire. A hit. A victorious MIDI refrain sounds, and I resume breathing as I enter hyperspace.

Mission completed.

A cheer erupts around the room, which is suddenly strangled when we remember it's 1am on a Tuesday and we're in a crowded college dorm. We settle for some fist pumps instead (stop sniggering up the back).

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Sonic CD: Sounds from the Future!
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 July 2014, 9:48 pm

The day I hooked the SNES into my shelf stereo was a revelation. From my meagre television, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was impressive. Out of the stereo, it was sublime. Hidden lows boomed into existence as the title blared. Highs gained tinny clarity. The form of everything was transformed before my ears.

For my cousin, this was old news. He invited his brother and I to his bachelor pad a few weeks before Christmas of last year. Mostly, he wanted to show off some Japanimation he had scored – the kind where people explode after being punched. But he also wanted to show off his Hi-Fi stereo, 32-inch television, and the systems connected to it. To me, it looked like he had won one of those raffles from EGM that promised every kind of AV gadget under the sun.

Before he dropped Devil Hunter Yoko into the VHS player, I spotted a Sega CD in his equipment pile. “Oh yeah, check out the new Sonic game,” he said.

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Basements
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 July 2014, 8:42 am

This is the first year that I ever experienced horror playing a video game. I've already experienced tension, addiction, frustration, and exhilaration. But fear? Why would I be scared of cartoonish sprites?

I only know about Doom because my older brother brought a copied floppy home from high school and installed it on our computer. Yeah, I'm the kid brother, but he still enjoys having me around, and he's a great gateway to books, movies and games I might not otherwise discover on my own. So when I went down to our basement that one day to see what he was up to, he was more than eager to put me in the pilot's seat and show me this amazing, awesome new game.

Of course, my brother is also a jerk, and as soon as he showed me the basic controls, he went upstairs.

He left me alone. In the basement.

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Myst
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 July 2014, 4:30 pm

At the risk of sounding like a Penthouse Forum letter: I always thought these kinds of stories were made up, until it happened to me. I decided to marry someone because of a videogame. And both the game, and the woman, are extraordinary.

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1994 Week: The Year Ahead
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 July 2014, 11:28 am

Good morning, users.

You may have heard in last week's podcast that we at GWJ have discovered a way to tunnel across time and dimension to peak into a prior GWJ — a GWJ BBS, running in 1994. The world mourns the loss of Kurt Cobain, while praising the rise of Jim Carrey via three movies in one year.

It is a dark time.

Join us now, as we peek across existence into a time that is in many ways simpler, lower resolution, and a moment when games were rapidly evolving in a lot of good (and awful) ways.

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