Friday, July 26, 2013


I guess the game can't "die" if it wasn't ever really alive to start with.
...stop all the grab dealin'!

Six years later, that video still doesn't make any sense to me. That said, there's something else that doesn't make sense to me and that's what I feel like I need to talk about today - namely, the handling of MechWarrior Online and the player base that's apparently just slightly more incompetent than the game's management. 

Anyone who's followed this blog since I created it about a year ago should know by now that I love BattleTech. It's by far one of my favorite IPs, and I still have great memories of playing the various games (video and tabletop) all through middle school and high school. The circle of friends I made through it was the closest to a real social life I've ever had, which I'm sure reflects poorly on me to a certain extent but nonetheless should make it clear as to why I hate seeing the property go through hard times. 

MechWarrior Online is thus a very strange beast. On one hand, the game has some of the best core gameplay the franchise has ever seen. The aiming system helps make it feel like you're piloting a giant walking tank with limbs rather than a fighter jet with legs, and the integration of proper BattleTech elements like equipment critical slots in the MechBay and the risk of ammunition cooking off in destroyed parts of your 'Mech that will gut you from the inside out bring back a certain level of depth that was missing from MechWarrior 4, even if certain elements (most notably active/passive sensors) are missing in action. The problem is that instead of adding those features, the developer, Piranha Games Interactive (PGI) seems dead-set on removing things that increase player immersion, all while adding elements that break the game in various ways and asking for more money while they do it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Judge a Book by Its Cover

My personal AR-15, which I put together with a friend's help.
According to gun store employees, I should have left that to the pros (like who, DPMS? Bushmaster? Pfft.).
Firstly, I'd like to apologize for the lack of updates. I've been busy doing that while "contacting your elected officials like a good citizen" thing, as well as working on quite a few other projects, up to and including contributing to a recurring MechWarrior Online podcast and getting RIPPED AT THE GYM BRAH. As a result, my game playing has been cut down pretty significantly, aside from regular MechWarrior sessions, replaying Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance four or five times and killin' filthy pinko commie bastards in Wargame: AirLand Battle (the latter two games are utterly fantastic and are very much worth your time, by the way). I've been pretty much out of topics and struck with a huge case of writer's block when I do want to write too, which hasn't helped. Maybe I'll write something about Metal Gear Rising later, because it's CUHRAYZEE in all the best ways and has some pretty interesting political/philosophical implications too. Maybe.

Oh yeah, and I bought a shotgun - a Remington 870 Police Magnum, to be exact. It's pretty cool, and maybe someday I'll get it out to a range that actually lets me use it (the closest skeet range has a "no riot guns" rule; local indoor ranges are slug only). Someday.
With that out of the way, I need to comment on something I've noticed lately. The last time I wrote anything for this blog, I had to complain about the way that I was treated like a mass murderer in the making for the crime of being a.) a gamer and b.) a gun owner, which is about as accurate a prediction as saying all gay people will cause an outbreak of HIV. It's a blanket statement that to this day makes me absolutely simmer with rage. Of course, these are just blanket statements - broad generalizations made to appeal to the lower common denominator to score political brownie points. Stupid, but I understand that's just how national politics work. Obviously it won't apply when said gamer is in your store, asking to look at your handguns, and asking how to field strip them so he can inspect the internals, right?


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Under the Gun

Kept you waiting, huh?
It's been a while. For good reason, I assure you. Please bear with me - the tone of this post is probably going to be a lot more serious and relevant than I'm used to writing. In the past two months, I've been rather busy. Granted, work takes a lot out of me, and I basically work a second job in MechWarrior Online at this point, but I've been meaning to get something off my chest. It's something I've been thinking a lot about, and I've been waiting for someone in the video game community to come out and say it, but as far as I can tell, nobody has, so I guess it falls on me. Here's hoping it doesn't fall on deaf ears.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

2cool4u: 343i's UNSC and the Death of (Good) Lore

Ok, I'll admit it. I love Halo. Bungie's Halo: Combat Evolved was the first FPS I really ever sank my teeth into (yes, I know, "babby's first FPS," etc.; blame my parents and their rules on video game violence). To this day, I still claim that my life simple would not have been the same without Halo. The friends I've made, the rivals I've gained, and the experiences I had in my teenage years often could be traced back to me sitting slack-jawed in awe during the summer of 2002 as I fought my way through the game's titular ring world.

While the gameplay was nothing short of superb - Goldeneye 64 had created a working formula for console FPS games that Halo: CE perfected - my favorite part of the series was its thoroughly well-defined lore, especially in the novels such as Eric Nylund's superb Halo: The Fall of Reach (said novel was passed around so often in my circle of middle school friends that the binding was nearly destroyed). The Covenant seemed vast and truly alien, the Forerunners were shrouded in mystery, the Flood seemed unbeatable and terrifying, and the UNSC, the military arm of humanity, was written as a capable and strategically sound fighting force that was only being pushed back through attrition and due to a technological gap with the Covenant that was bordering on the extreme. Of the major players in the universe, the UNSC was always my favorite.

Oddly enough, it was never the SPARTANs that made me like the UNSC. Rather, it was their portrayal as a whole - the UNSC was structured like a modern military (Marines, Army, Navy), had plausible future technology at its disposal (helloooooo railguns!), and perhaps best of all, was imperfect but still highly competent. Internal conflicts would often pit parts of the UNSC against one another such as Dr. Catherine Halsey and Col. James Ackerson, and the UNSC would often find itself fighting human insurrectionists on their own colonies over political differences. Nonetheless, humanity was shown to be a tenacious and capable opponent. To me, this alone was worth nothing in comparison to what little sci-fi games I had played at the time, where humanity was often seen as hopelessly outclassed by alien invaders. Halo's UNSC represented a plausible, logical evolution for humanity's military in an age of space exploration. It was by no means perfect, but still effective and highly professional.

Look at these badasses. State of the badass art.
And now, in the age of Halo 4, 343 Industries has seen fit to throw that all out the window.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Overdrive: Why Games Need More Run and Gun

In a world of cookie-cutter shooters, "ordinary" has once again become the extraordinary.

(Sorry for the long absence, real life has (sadly) caught up to me recently. Moving sucks. - VR)

This past week saw the long-awaited, totally free, and shockingly well-polished Black Mesa. A mod a full eight years in the making - and technically still not finished - has recreated Half-Life from the ground up using the engine that powered its sequel. Needless to say, the bar was set quite high. Half-Life has long been considered a cornerstone of modern video games, and with good reason. When it released in 1998, Half-Life was considered revolutionary, and many of its design tenets, such as the use of scripted sequences to both advance the plot and create dynamic scenes during gameplay, are still used widely in modern shooters.

Black Mesa, amazingly enough, manages to not only maintain the spirit of Half-Life almost fourteen years after the game's debut, but also improve upon it in several ways. By refining level progression, puzzle solving, and scripted events, the Black Mesa team was able to polish the few rough segments that were present in the original game. It is very much a 90's shooter in the clothes of the modern era. This isn't to say that Black Mesa is without flaws, but it did an utterly fantastic job at hiding them, considering the project was done entirely by volunteers. Black Mesa's greatest achievement, however, may be the complete shift that the game will represent to players new to 90's-style shooters.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Tale of Two Spin-Offs: Ace Combat Cross Rumble and Ace Combat Assault Horizon

As someone whose childhood was defined by repeated viewings of Top Gun, it should be no surprise that I love the Ace Combat series. For the uninitiated, Ace Combat is basically an arcade-style flight action game, mixing an accessible flight model with plenty of missiles, melodrama, and music that results in a truly unique and enjoyable experience. However, after the release of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Namco saw fit to try and liven up the series by changing a number of the franchise's established concepts. After numerous sequels and spin-offs, evolving the series' formula was to be expected - one of the few criticisms that was leveled at Fires of Liberation from nearly all reviewers was that the game brought very little new to the table compared to the last 7+ games in the series, especially since most dogfights effectively boiled down to "do high-G turns until you can shoot a QAAM at the other guy."

Ace Combat Assault Horizon was to be the rebirth of the series, introducing a number of new features and concepts to the formula. Sadly, Assault Horizon may ultimately have done more harm than good to the series. But, before one can discuss what AH did wrong, it's important to understand what previous Ace Combat games did right that gained Project Aces both immense respect and the undying adoration of a legion of fans (myself included).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Balance, Tactics, and the Problem with Pistols

Average semiautomatic pistol, according to DICE

Author's Note: This article will include discussion of both real-world and virtual weapons deployment. If you are unfamiliar with one or the other, I strongly suggest doing some research on your own so that you can have a better understanding of my claims.

I play Battlefield 3. A lot. Like, an awful lot. As in "I give myself insomnia playing this" levels of "a lot." While the game is certainly fun for the most part, there's a certain element that has bothered me since launch, and, curiously, it doesn't seem to bother anyone else. In fact, it doesn't seem to bother anyone in Battlefield 3, it didn't seem to bother anyone in Modern Warfare 2, and it didn't even bother them in Rainbow Six: Vegas. Maybe it's simply because it's such a small part of the actual gameplay, but I feel like I'm the only one who's bothered by this. Whether or not anyone else notices, it's a problem that has gone on for far too long and needs to be addressed. 

The problem? Automatic pistols.