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Thoughts about The Last of Us

September 21st, 2013 No comments

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Spoiler Warning: This post discusses the game’s ending!!!

I finished The Last of Us a couple of months ago and I have to say the production values are way up there; this is excellent work in every department!

But I want to talk a little about the ending. You see, what happened while I was playing it is that I died (like I did many times during the course of the game), but the way that cut-scene was longer than the others and very well staged, I thought it was the REAL ending.

And I was floored. It totally worked for me. Joel was carrying an unconscious Ellie, desperately looking for a door that would lead them outside to freedom. But the armed guards were close behind them; I could hear their voices. The desperation of Joel was palpable, the tension so high. Until finally the guards caught up top to Joel and threw him to the ground. It was chaotic; Joel was thrashing, shouting through his tears for the guards not to take Ellie away. And then one of the guards put his gun to Joel’s head. The gunshot sound boomed and the screen went dark. It was over.

I was speechless. It was a perfect ending in my opinion; Joel stayed true to himself until the end. He wanted to save Ellie, but also to keep her for himself. For very understandable selfish reasons. It was a desperate gesture but it made sense. While the armed forces were too much for him; there was no doubt in my mind that they would manage to stop Joel and snatch Ellie. The odds were too much. Yes, the two protagonists had died, but humanity stood a chance, thanks to Ellie’s sacrifice. Dark. Tragic. Yet also hopeful.

But I guess it’s a little like Blade Runner’s “true” ending; it was probably too much to stomach for people and instead Joel makes it out and his (and Ellie’s) life goes on. Not the ending I would have chosen. Still, that’s one utterly brilliant game.

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Thoughts about Bioshock Infinite

September 21st, 2013 2 comments

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Spoiler Warning: This post talks about Bioshock Infinite and might contain spoilers.

So recently I finished playing “Bioshock Infinite”. My first thought was: my god, what passes for “deep storytelling” in video games nowadays.

In my opinion this scenario is a bungled mess of a story full of contrived, preposterous twists and an overly complicated narrative about unexplained motivations. I mean ANYBODY can write an absurdly knotty story full of confusingly interrelated parts. It doesn’t make it a good story.

That THIS is lauded as a potential game of the year and praised for its supposedly amazing storytelling is frankly beyond me. A friend of mine wisely noted that the threshold for writing in games is extremely low. And the writing level of Bioshock Infinite would pass for a mediocre novel. But slap it onto a video-game and suddenly gamers are gushing about a masterpiece.

I could try and pick up one by one all the pieces of the story that do not make sense or rather only make sense in the writers’ minds because they thought it up in the first place. I could point out the contradictory motivations, the lack of genuine emotion… But I won’t, because it would be a little akin to laughing at an Alzheimer patient because he can’t remember stuff.

I feel this problem will go on as long as gamers (and gaming journalists) mistake complexity for richness. I KNOW video games have long lived a very healthy life without anything resembling a satisfying story. But come on. The quality of writing really needs to improve. Or does it? Let’s be honest here; if good writing was a necessary component of games we wouldn’t have those kind of issues anymore. But still. I’m hoping for better days.

So in the end what’s left of Bioshock Infinite are some very nice visual moments and some pseudo-philosophical attempts at making you believe there is profundity at the core of its story.

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Assassin’s Creed III: The Beginnings…

November 24th, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed 3 for a bit longer than an hour and while I applaud Ubisoft for coming to its senses and finally dropping their boneheaded DRM schemes, I have to take notes of a few things here. Not all of them good I’m afraid. And don’t worry there are no spoilers in there.

The textures are excellent as always in the series and the ocean shader is very pleasing to the eye. The cloth-to-skin is also overall quite nice.

But as I started the game I was worried to see the main protagonist (Desmond Miles) not emoting one bit facially. And during cut-scenes nonetheless. I still remember the facial animation in “Brotherhood” as being quite appealing. Oh well.

Then later when my character was finally let loose in Boston I met a bunch of kids which were in fact adult models scaled down with no regards to an actual child’s proportion. Sure, their heads were a different model, but their skeleton structure was identical to a grownup’s.  And their animations were in part shared with the adults’, including “walk-like-a-6-foot-tall-trucker” ones. I can hear the producers from here: “No need to animate characters by hand anymore! We can just slap any old grand mocap data on them and voila!“. Voila indeed. I shook my head in disbelief and moved on.

My attention was then lead to a man vehemently arguing with… no-one. He was shouting and grabbing the air with a firm IK grip. So I thought “Did they mean to do a  drunk mime arguing with himself?” But then the man got violently shoved away by an invisible assailant and I had to accept I was simply staring at a very, very big bug. So I sighted and moved on.

And I went walking on some patches of grass that would look right at home in a very old game. Just a few straight polygons, grossly crisscrossing. So I looked at a nearby tree and noticed it had no branches except some flat triangular polygons at the top. I hope the forest trees are much nicer than the city ones.

Then I walked some more and met a dog three-quarters buried in the ground. But it wasn’t dead. It was walking and barking as if to nothing. But buried three-quarters in the ground.

I also witnessed a horse leaning backwards at 45 degrees, and two characters engaged in a face-to-face conversation practically turning their backs to each-other, and a soldier cycle-running into a wall, and… oh, forget it.

Is this really the quality everyone has come to expect from a multi-million dollar video game today? I really, really hope the rest of the experience shows a little more care than I’ve seen in this early session.

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!! Cintiq Drivers Warning !!

July 16th, 2012 4 comments

If you are a Cintiq 24HD user, do NOT install the latest Wacom drivers (6.32) as those are severely bugged and will render your tablet/pen impossible to calibrate. The previous version (6.31) is fine. The Cintiq is a wonder of engineering, but Wacom should test their drivers a little more thoroughly before releasing them to the public.

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DRM rant (part Deux)

May 17th, 2012 No comments

Yep, you may have read my previous rant on the Assassin’s Creed 2 DRM “always on” debacle, but apparently a small game was released yesterday that suffered the same fate: Diablo 3. Except this time, having heard about Blizzard’s plans I simply didn’t buy their game. Nor will I buy Assassin’s Creed 3 if Ubisoft keeps on with their bone-headed decision.

I guess what hurts most is players are being told that “this is for their own benefit”. I mean how much of a spin-crazy heartless cynic do you have to be to even say such a thing? And it seems Kotaku (and half of The Internets) is of the same mind. Here’s a quote regarding the recent Diablo 3 launch fiasco:

We always knew that by demanding a constant internet connection, Blizzard was taking away a portion of the consumer’s ownership of their game. […] It means that we play at their pleasure, and that we no longer have the power to decide when our game starts and when it doesn’t.

There are plenty of games out there, made by small dedicated studios that vie for your attention. And the best thing? They don’t take you for an idiot. So I may eventually end up buying Blizzard’s game, but it’ll be with a bitter taste in my mouth stemmed from the full knowledge that my money vindicates their hurtful anti-piracy schemes.

So there you go. Everybody hurts. The game editors, the players… Well, everybody but the “pirates” (you know, the people who play their games without DRM hassles). Now what’s wrong with this picture?

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Assassin’s Creed 2 DRM rant

March 15th, 2010 3 comments

Recently I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed 2 for PC, and I have to say I enjoy it. The artistic direction is excellent, and sometimes (especially during some of the cut-scenes) the facial animation actually conveys some pretty good acting.

But the worst thing about the game is its protection against pirating. Ubisoft has effectively put itself in a position where they turned us (their customers) into little children and themselves into a parental authority figure. Think the analogy’s far-fetched?

1) They demand to know at any moment if we are playing or not. And they check on us every couple of minutes.

2) They make us ask for their consent before we are even allowed to play. Not just once, but each and every time.

3) They can turn off the game (and I mean that literally) at any instant, for whatever reason (out of our control), be it technical or temperamental.

I still can’t fathom how some people in charge at Ubisoft thought this could be a good idea. I’m sorry for stating the obvious, but blatantly invading your customers’ privacy is NOT a step in the right direction from treating them like thieves.

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