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Welcome Back to the West
By oneshotstop
Posted on 08/01/16
The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...


shandog137 shandog137's Blog
So much more than war...
Posted on Friday, April 18 2014 @ 16:56:36 PST

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

The recent blog, Peace in the Era of Call of Duty really made me think about war games that dig deeper than simply a kill streak reward. The first game that came to mind was Spec-Ops: The Line and although I haven’t played it, I began to wonder if it did the war genre as much justice as one of my favorite games (I have yet to actually finish…) Valkyria Chronicles. In many war games the focus seems to be on the conflict vs the interpersonal development and collateral impact on participants not directly involved in the conflict.

One of the things that I believe made The Last of Us so successful was the way in which Naughty Dog handled the relationship development between Joel and Ellie. They had players putting down the controller if only to pay attention to the dialog between the two characters as they progressed through the game. One minute you are figuring out how to get around a room full of infected with palms sweating and the next you are simply listening to Joel and Ellie discuss a painting they are walking past. It was a game focused on both avoiding and dispatching infected and hunters and also a drama about loss, trust, maturing, etc… framed as a standard third-person shooter. Can Call of Duty ever capture this type of dynamic in a modern warfare game? Is that even Activision's desire?

Valkyria Chronicles came out in 2008 yet it framed war in such a novel way to me. You started the game by returning home only to find your town invaded. Then you have to assist the militia in defending it. You lack experience as a leader and Welkin (the lead character) is portrayed as an average kid. The story was good but what made this a “great” war game was the squad mechanics. Much like X-Com: Enemy Unknown, if your squad member fell and you failed to revive them they were gone for good. As you used squad members more and more, their skills improved but “potentials” were also unlocked. These potentials were what made the game so impactful for me. Traditionally, when I think of skill progression in a war game I think of better armor, accuracy, weaponry, gadgets, etc… yet in VC you could have a squad member unlock hidden potentials like the following:

Coward - Having enemies nearby terrifies them, hindering accuracy when firing.

Darcsen Hater - Even just being around Darcsens makes them nauseous, leading to a decrease in defense.

Humanitarian - Unable to forgive themselves for harming another person, they cannot take any further action after attacking.

Misogynist - Having women nearby triggers constitutional loathing so powerful it lowers accuracy.

It was the first time I had seen skill progressions like this in a war game. It dealt with racism and sexism in its skill trees. This was pretty damn cool. Think about spending hours leveling up a squad mate to discover their final unlock is an ability like “Misogynist” and then having to restructure your team to address the newly arisen personality conflict with two other female squad mates. This was so damn different than anything I had previously experienced game wise and just made the game even better in my opinion.

As different potentials for the squad mates became unlocked I became more empathetic and attached to the characters because they seemed more “real”. This wasn’t a matter of building a squad with a tank, a support, a scout etc… it was more like, “Shit! I have two scouts I need for the mission but they don’t work well together do I send them out together anyway or keep them separate? Do I train a new scout hoping that they get along? Or do I simply figure out a different configuration without two scouts?” This relationship mechanic had me totally engrossed.

I entered the gaming experience thinking it would be similar to Command and Conquer and was pleasantly surprised at the depth of character development and the focus on the relationships. When you lost a squad member, unlike X-com, you lost someone that meant more because of their character traits. I mean I didn’t just lose a sniper; I lost a sniper that may have been allergic to pollen, was a pessimist, had a frail body, but would also never say die and these were all actual traits associated with just a single unit. Sure, I could train another sniper but the odds of getting that build and even the surprise of unlocking the potentials for the first time to determine what type of character you are dealing with just took the whole war game experience to a new level.

As I currently play through Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Crysis 3, marking and executing unsuspecting enemies, I am reminded of how much more the experience could mean if I was given reason to care more about the people I assisted or slew. Valkyria Chronicles had a good story but the personalities that defined the characters were what made it so memorable. I would love to see a war RPG that can get this right again. We have become accustomed to shallow single-player campaign experiences from some of our most cherished war franchises with the rationale that the focus is on multiplayer. We thought the same thing about fighting games and then Mortal Kombat was released with an awesome single player campaign, so it can be done. We just have to want it.  

In a market saturated with war games it’s nice to have something that provides a bit more than kill “x”, unlock silencer, etc, but I do wonder if creating a game like VC in a modern setting would be extremely uncomfortable for some. Kill streaks are fun in their own right, but spending hours developing a squad with unique personalities only to have one of them killed and not be able to create a duplicate may hit a bit too close to home in the “art imitating life” scheme of things. Still, we strive for realism and the reality of war is that it is far more complicated than attaining a kill streak.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of GameRevolution, but it is a blog written by one of our community. This article, posted originally on April 15th, 2014, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. Write a blog by clicking "Add New Entry" on your GR profile page for a chance to be featured on GameRevolution's home page.

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A Day Without Booth Babes! But why?
Posted on Wednesday, March 19 2014 @ 11:31:18 PST

I felt compelled to write this one up after reading a recent write-up by Daniel Bischoff requesting the support of the GR community in banning booth babes. Before I begin to address some of the points made by Daniel, I think it worthwhile to expound a bit on my perception of sexuality and human form. As a first generation American with a family from Trinidad and Tobago it allowed me the opportunity to intimately experience two similar cultures with a few stark differences.
In Trinidad there is an annual event called Carnivale. At this event you will see scantily clad men and women for over a week long period dancing and partying. You will also see kids mixed in trying to imitate the costumes and dance moves of the adults and it is simply part of the culture. Starting at childhood and through adulthood you experience this each year and I guess it has desensitized me to some extent. Trindad has gay, straight, transgendered individuals etc… like many other cultures and something that seems to be missing in recent debates is that all of these individuals have the capacity to appreciate the human form. See, once you become used to peoples' bodies in all shapes and forms a booth babe just seems like meh…anybody else to me.
To further expound, when thinking of the way in which I view sexual preference in others I use the following form of reasoning: Consider how many people you have interacted with in a given day (I mean a cashier at the coffee shop, the person who glares at you on the bus, etc…) now multiply that number by 365 days and then by the remaining number of years you think you will live. Finally, consider that out of the total number of people you think you will interact with over the rest of your lifetime how many you will have an intimate relationship with.  Typically, for individuals living in an urban environment you are going to be intimate with less than 1% of the individuals you will interact with over the course of your life (I mean a lot less than 1%). By that reasoning and my past cultural experiences I tend to be more apt to treat all people sexually equal as the impact of their sexual preference on my life is negligible at best.
So that’s how I think for the most part and it allows me to treat people like people…not booth babes, not “gays”, not “hetero’s”, just… people.
Now to the article. Daniel asked three questions as follows:
(1) Do booth babes add to the video game coverage you read at home?
            (a) I personally don’t think so
(2) Do bloated marketing budgets allow developers to continue innovating?
            (a) I am not sure of the correlation between marketing budgets and innovation when you have explicit company missions that state such things as “we only seek to make game that are “franchisable” (if that’s a word). I think it a bit of a stretch if you believe that the removal of booth babes would lead to increased innovation. I would also argue that the portion of the marketing budget for a triple A title like GTA V that is allocable to booth babe compensation is negligible when compared to the TV ads, conferences, travel expenditures (we are going to come back to this), etc…
(3) Do skimpy school girls at E3 make Duke Nukem Forever a better game?
            (a) I don’t think the objective of booth babes is to improve the gaming experience. However, Nick Tan mentioned that on the second day of the conferences the Lines are ****ing dreadful…so do booth babes keep certain types of individuals in your line longer under these circumstances, I would argue yes. Not all, but certain types of people would be willing to stand in the line longer with the scantily clad booth babe vs a line without additional stimuli (yes, that is how I view booth babes/booth people to an extent, an additional form of stimuli to keep your consumer base engaged until you are able to deliver your marketing message).
Daniel then goes on to make the statement,
 “Booth babes cannot be allowed to represent women in the industry any longer, as there are countless female developers, executives, and players helping to shape the medium today.”
Would you be considered a victim of the bias you seek to change if you believe booth babes are representative of “women” in the industry. This seems to be the type of gross generalization you seek to change. I really didn’t understand this stance, as I see booth babes as just that, booth babes, not a representation of female industry professionals or gamers. They are one aspect of a gaming industry. If you look at the film industry, you have summer blockbusters like Transformers, you have movies like Momento, and you also have porn. Would you see female porn stars of detriment to the perception of female movie producers, executives, actresses, etc…I don’t and I also don’t see anything wrong with their business or the way in which they market the media for their products which is vastly different than how Transformers would be marketed. They are in the same medium but represent very different things and to me that is okay.
With regard to videogames, the subject matter much like the movie industry varies greatly. The way in which marketing firms determine how best to reach their audience is highly correlated to the type of material portrayed in their product. Both of last year’s games of the year GTA V and Last of Us portrayed graphic sexual and violent scenes/themes. There were 100’s of other games produced last year yet unsurprisingly our choice as a community leaned toward sex and violence.  Yet, you make the argument that you don’t need to sell violence with sex…? This statement is perplexing for me in that it raises another issue which is the difference in acceptability thresholds for Americans with regard to sex vs violence.
You say that booth babes deter a segment of the population from embracing the industry and yet I just don’t get the unabashed acceptance of violence, unless that would be the next area to be addressed. Look, I honestly admit that I find both sex and violence alluring like many others who support the now multi-billion dollar gaming industry. As discussed earlier, I became comfortable with the human form based on my past cultural experiences but I have yet to find a cultural experience that makes individuals comfortable with the degree of violence depicted or accepted in American culture. I am okay with it as an American but I try not to demonstrate bias toward either. However, I would be more averse to having my child in a haunted house depicting the mutilation of the human body as I would a Carnivale with tons of scantily clad people. That's just my preference...stripper vs. sociopath...stripper all day. 

I commented to Dan, "Why don’t they add more types of "booth people" and he replied that they were unlikely to increase the number of booth males and they wear more clothing. To this I say give it a shot. Consider that one of America’s most masculine and favorite pastimes is football. Each team has a locker room and in each of these locker rooms are scantily clad (if clothed) men. Surprisingly enough, in these locker rooms most guys are able to converse without the feeling of discomfort. This is possibly due to the fact that over time they were desensitized to that sense of discomfort through exposure not exclusion.
I am sorry to pick on you Dan but you also made the statement,

“Yes, exactly. Booth babes are hired, flown in, based on their looks, not their fandom. Booth babes don't care about the game they're working with. They care about collecting a paycheck…”
Dude you just dehumanized them and generalized again? Booth babes are people with varying interests, opinions, and expertise. This comment leads to my following idea for GR.
(1) Wait until the second day of a conference when the lines are long as hell, then;
(2) Interview the booth babes (this may also make you more comfortable around them if you find certain commonalities and don’t see them as simply a distraction). Ask them about the game booth they are representing and the game in detail and record it. This would at least give some substance to your assertion that they don’t care about the games they are working with;
(3) If they have no idea about the game or the booth they represent politely thank them for their time and move on to the next booth;
(4) Following the conference do an expo on your findings outlining whether they support or deviate from your hypothesis;
(5) Provide copies of your write-up to those publishers/developers with booth babes who lacked knowledge, explaining that when on the second day of a conference the lines get long the booth babes are the first line of communication to your consumers in relaying your message. As you have to report on numerous publishers and developers and as time is limited it would be prudent that the individuals they use be aware of the subject matter as it is a missed opportunity to get their message across and isn’t that their fundamental goal at these marketing events?
Just removing booth babes may start a dialogue but not necessarily your intended one and thus the idea above frames your dissent in a way in which the public is more aware of exactly why you see no value in booth babes and provides a direct incentive to publishers/developers as to why to change their individual system. I believe it isn’t simply the conference attendees' whose perception you would like to change but rather the industry as a whole.
In conclusion you hit on an excellent topic but I disagree with regard to your suggested means of reaching the end. I don't think the booth babes are as much an issue as our inability to segregate the physical form from the substance we seek. As I stated in the comments to Daniel's article I don't see the need to get rid of booth babes but rather, I think the focus should be on more effective marketing strategies (whether that be booth babes, booth dudes, booth kids, or booth other) that are consistent with the media they are portraying... Booth Babes for DOA Beach Volley Ball no Booth Babes for Stanley Parable...(I think booth comedians would be kind of cool as well). 
Also, I almost forgot but with regards to the bloated marketing budget I would focus more so on travel expenditures you would be surprised at how much bloat you can reduce by utilizing per diems, lower cost lodging options, and airfare and car rental restrictions…this change would significantly impact a marketing budget but that still doesn’t mean the revenue saved would be allocated to innovation, as that is a separate business decision all together.

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The Great Compromise: Final Fantasy VII
Posted on Friday, March 7 2014 @ 08:42:06 PST

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

[Yep, I flipped the image... see what I did there? Ed. Nick]
I was not originally a fan of FFVII; in fact, I remember looking at the commercials in the '90s and finally purchasing the game only to realize the commercials only showed CGI scenes. I was young and needless to say the stark contrast between the CGI segments portrayed in the commercials and the first segment of gameplay provided enough shock for me to initially want to instantly return the game. It was not what I thought I had bought. Luckily, I gave it a weekend to grow on me and as I started to understand the mechanics of magic and leveling and in general how to play an RPG I ended up falling in love with this little gem of a game. It was my first RPG and to this day still holds a special place amongst the hundreds of games I have played since then. To some extent I am a bit of a fanboy, but I think most gamers can relate to the nostalgia associated with their first great gaming experience regardless of title, console, or time of release. It’s one of those special moments that transcend time.
With that said, I am honestly just tired of the excuses as to why the game can’t even begin to start the steps of being remastered. I look at Kitase’s comments in the article, “Final Fantasy VII Director Discusses Possible Remake” and it just seems like bull. Kitase states:
“Even if I casually say I would like to do that, because it would be a huge project I would have to motivate myself to the level that I really am prepared to take on this huge responsibility. I don't know if those three things will happen simultaneously. It has to tick lots of very big boxes. I won't rule out the possibility, but it would take a lot to make it happen.

But should I ever take it on, it would have to be the biggest project I've done. My life work. So I would have to be as highly motivated as that to end up with something I'm very happy with. It's a huge thing for me.”
(1) The game has been out since 1997. “YOU” do not have to direct a remake! With the game having been out now for approximately 17yrs I am hard pressed to believe another director with the right amount of skill and love for the franchise could not do it justice. Someone else is in and you’re ****ing out! One box checked off.
(2) But you still need the resources and time to create. If SquareEnix doesn’t want to do the remake, sell off the rights with certain stipulations as to what a remake must entail to carry the name. So even if SE sells the rights, who has the money and people to do the project? In recent years there has been this really innovative fund raising mechanism introduced called “Kickstarter” where people (you know the individuals who buy games) invest in games they would like to see made. Aside from that, have you guys been keeping up on the amount of talent that continues to get laid off as large projects are completed and companies continue to close and consolidate?
*Oblivion’s piece on hurdles to a FFVII remake touch on several issues addressed by points 1 & 2. With regard to his concern of the biggest hurdle of all being accessing the original assets I would take this with a grain of salt in that they haven’t gotten past making excuses of “Why not” in order to truly assess what they have access to and what would need to be recreated. It could be one of the greatest hurdles or it could be not as significant, but you actually have to begin the process of considering making the remake before just relegating it to the insurmountable.
This takes me to one of the most significant hurdles to making a FFVII and that is “Fear” and an unrealized mission. We have DLC, because consumers want it and are willing to pay for it. We see sequels to games that have a mediocre reception because consumers want it and are willing to pay for it. The fact that a company can disregard such a significant demand until they create a more successful game in the series speaks to two very important things:
(1) Did you forget who you make games for?
(2) What does making something “Better” have to do with providing another great experience that your consumers are asking for?
I don’t honestly want a direct remake but rather a reboot of the series using current assets to take us back to that world I came to love at such a young age. Don’t shoot for a direct remake because I agree with MattAY when he states:
“You know, I'm not so sure that even a remake will capture the true nostalgia of the original FF7. I think to do that[,] someone will have to come up with an invention to wipe selective memories so you can live through the tale once again! Knowing what's going to happen won't make the game truly as it were, no matter how pretty it looks.

It's like wishing you could play through a game for the first time again so you have the same thrilling experience - like Bioshock, Metal Gear [Solid,] etc. It will never come around again and all you can do is be thankful you got to play this wonderful immersive journey!”
However, there is so much potential that I believe if SE actually respected their consumers they could get away with an honest disclaimer in the vein of something like this:
“For over 17 years we have received requests to recreate FFVII, and we have heard you. FFVII was the most successful game in the series and from the ongoing demand for a remake it is apparent it has had a lasting effect on the gaming industry as a whole. Unfortunately, we believe like many others that while we may be able to create a visually updated remake, certain intangible aspects of what made that game one of our finest offerings such as the timing, game environment, and audience, etc… have significantly changed. However, we cannot let your voices go unheard, so we wish to revisit the universe that triggers nostalgia in so many of our great customers.”
*They could then go on to expound on ways in which the new adventure harkens back to the original with old school battle mechanics and a familiar world with familiar characters but has been updated graphically, etc… I would even go Dominoes and point out some of the aspects of their recent entries which received the most negative feedback and demonstrate how they have been removed in this new adventure to stay true to its roots.
I think this type of compromise, can reinvigorate a franchise that has been slowly declining in the last 15 years, address the demand of the current market, restore confidence to your purchaser base, and finally provide additional revenue and breathing room to work on original IPs. If they went this route I could easily see 2-4 spin-offs over a 3-5 year period. Seriously, if you could stretch out XIII over 3 or 4 entries with a story like that…do we really need to assume?

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted originally on March 5, 2014, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan 

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Playing to achieve, complete, or enjoy?
Posted on Tuesday, March 4 2014 @ 16:38:29 PST

I read the article, “Gamer Earns 500 Platinum Trophies, Makes a Real-life Platinum Trophy” and it reminded me of Ryan Bates piece, an “Irrational Divide” and a piece by Daniel Bischoff called, “I Got a Top Score in Call of Duty”. What the...   read more...

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Playstation+ More than Just Free Games
Posted on Friday, January 31 2014 @ 10:16:51 PST

On June 28, 2013, Anthony Severino posted an article quantifying the monetary benefit of a one year subscription to Playstation Plus (PS+). After some basic assumptions and quick math, Anthony assessed that a user for that time period would h...   read more...

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What yah looking at Big Brother?
Posted on Wednesday, December 18 2013 @ 15:35:18 PST

As the holiday season is upon us I am reminded of Santa Claus making a list and checking it twice, because he knows who is naughty and who is nice. Santa’s a damn spy and I don’t want a plump, old dude of no relation to my childre...   read more...

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I ain’t scared of no ghost! Now clowns on the other hand…
Posted on Monday, December 9 2013 @ 16:47:07 PST

I recently read an article discussing Shinji Mikami’s (Evil Within) revelation that it is simply getting harder to scare gamers. Sir, I agree! As I roll into my 30’s I have developed a rather tragic condition, called “Fearlessness&r...   read more...

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My experience at the Rockstar Diner: GTA V Revisited
Posted on Tuesday, November 12 2013 @ 17:17:09 PST

While enjoying a hot bowl of Pho, I was texted by a buddy of mine who inquired as to whether I had gotten onto GTAV Online yet. As some of you may be aware, this has been an issue of contention for me. See, when GTAV came out I ranted...   read more...

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Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Full Burst Review Rebuttal
Posted on Wednesday, November 6 2013 @ 15:32:32 PST

Dear Ryan,
I had a chance to read your review today regarding Full Burst and as a fan of the series I just wanted to play devil’s advocate (aka: pseudo fanboy) for a moment. I am all good with your score but just wanted to ...   read more...

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The Segregation of Online Communities…it’s only natural.
Posted on Wednesday, August 28 2013 @ 16:31:52 PST

There has been quite a great deal of discussion regarding the under representation of minority groups in video games and in the industry as a whole. From these discussions, further topics branched off into online bullying/harassment as well as how to...   read more...

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