Thursday, November 8, 2012
As you can see in that news article, Microsoft is giving out points for playing Halo 4 multiplayer until you literally drop in the month of November. I want my free Microsoft points so I have applied for a rewards membership and should get it all locked in by the end of the week.
So why am I telling you this? Because I want you guys to help me get there but playing multiplayer matches with me and making it even more enjoyable to run up my parent's electricity bill all month long. It will take a ton of dedication to make it to 140 hours but 70 seems like a reasonable goal for someone with as much time on my hands as me. If you want to play with me on Xbox Live my gamertag is Pungello1988. Follow me on Twitter @jamespungello to find out when I am playing or just let me know when you are going to be playing and I'll jump on with you.
I'll be posting gameplay videos, coordinating live streams for the site and doing all kinds of other cool stuff with the ridiculous amounts of multiplayer I'll be playing over the next few weeks so stay tuned. I hope to have another multiplayer madness edition up soon, with tons of Halo 4 stories.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
So I have attempted to pick up my online (and overall) gaming over the past few days and I've had relatively good results. If you consider getting sniped over and over again Halo: Reach, hustled in NHL 13, and not being able to play Modern Warfare 3 online good results. I'll explain all of that as I give you all a rundown on my quest to become a better online game player.
The Custodians Use This?
Modern Warfare 3?
Thursday, September 20, 2012
I have since moved on from GamerGaia and am now the Editor in Chief for VGutopia.com. I have seen some great stuff in the past few weeks from a re surging site and am excited to see where VGutopia goes. However, I don't want this blog to turn into a big advertisement for my site, I want it to be its own thing. A place where I can vent out what I want to say in a less than formal setting.
Will I never link you guys to VGutopia stuff? Of course not, if I have a good opinion piece up or something I'll let you guys know but I would like to leave this as a general place to discuss my thoughts on trying to enter the video game journalism field, playing games as I get older, and anything else that enters my mind (exactly what a blog should be).
So I will begin by talking about how "out of shape" I felt while playing Halo tonight. I was bored around 11 o'clock or so (shortly after the Giants finished kicking the crap out of the Panthers) and decided to pop in a disc and play some Xbox. I mulled over a choice in game and landed on NHL 13 after a bit of deliberation but after destroying the Minnesota Wild 8-0 and then beating the Canadiens 4-3 in OT, I was looking for something different.
So I took another glance at my games and decided I'd give Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary a go. I decided against another roll through the campaign and instead decided to try something I hadn't done in a while; play online multiplayer. I'd been a big Halo online guy years ago but I had basically stopped playing online games (even though I still shell out the cash for Live every month). I quickly realized this was a mistake.
The first match was incredibly brutal, with the other team beating my four man crew 50-9 (I contributed one of those nine kills by the way). I began to wonder if maybe I had lost my touch. The second match turned out to be better with my team winning and me actually pulling out a +3 K/D ratio (usually I'm in the negatives) so that wasn't too bad but it didn't shake off the rusty feeling I had.
Atrophy is a term I only used to describe what happened to my biceps when I stopped working out but now I see its uses in my gaming life. My skills at Halo (and most likely any game online) have severely atrophied over the past few years of almost non-use. I see this as a problem, especially if I am going to be a video game journalist for a living. How could I possibly have any credibility among my audience if I thoroughly sucked at the games I played?
So I've decided to change my fate and get my online gaming skills back up to snuff. It won't be easy; real life obligations, single-player RPGs, and laziness might get in the way but dammit I am going to try! I'll start with a healthy dose of Halo before moving on to titles like Call of Duty and then maybe I'll venture into the uncharted waters of sports games online but I wouldn't hold my breath on that. I'll keep you all posted and we'll see if I can get my "online legs" back under me.
Monday, July 4, 2011
With the announcement of the new Halo trilogy of games that will feature the Master Chief and Cortana there are bound to be people who will either love the idea or hate it. Some will say that the franchise has grown stale, others will say Microsoft is trying to milk more money out of the franchise, and still others will enjoy the ability to go back into the universe of the Master Chief. So, are video game sequels like this a good thing or should the industry shy away from them? Will Halos 4, 5, and 6 be as good as the previous entries in the series? We will have to wait and see but I’m here to give my 2 cents on if these games are a good idea or not.
While I can’t say for sure if the game will be any good until I play it, I can say what I think about the idea. I personally love the story of the Master Chief and Cortana and would like to see a continuation, here is my reasoning. In any medium, we encounter characters that we know, love, and would like to see more of. Most of the time in movies, for example, we see a character that is engaging, funny, interesting, and we want to see more of him and his adventures. This is why sequels are popular in the first place in the movie business and why spin-offs are popular in television (because sometimes the main character isn’t the most popular or interesting) but something a little different happens in video games. Because games are interactive the gameplay element adds to the overall value of the game on top of the story telling, which is the most important aspect of film and TV.
So when a game series, like Halo, gets the gameplay right, we want more even if the story isn’t always the greatest. What usually determines a good game from a bad game is the gameplay. The story (and other, smaller factors) usually separates a good game from a great game. So the story takes a backseat to the gameplay and isn’t necessarily needed to create a good game. That’s one reason why game sequels can be tricky. Gameplay needs to be expanded for the game to be regarded as good because a rehash of gameplay is like a rehash of a movie plot. Plots can be rehashed in a game and be accepted more readily than gameplay. What we, as gamers, want is for the developers to keep what worked from previous titles and add in better elements in place of what didn’t work. This can cause the games to be much better and is why sequels have better luck in the video game world than in the film world, the gameplay and graphics are easier to enhance for a sequel but are non-existent in a movie.
So, in many cases, a game series will continue to get honed and better as time goes by whereas a film series will wither away without some kind of new spin. This is why I like to see game franchises last longer because the content might be getting better and better, at least from a gameplay standpoint. I don’t think films get better (with rare exceptions) but games do a whole lot more often.
So, why all the comparisons to movies and what is my point? Well movie sequels are the closest kind of sequels that I can think of to compare to for games. But the real reason I went through all that is because I wanted to show that if the gameplay is up to snuff then the games will be worth making. People have complained that the story will be dried up for Halo 4 but that really isn’t the central-most aspect of what will make the game. Granted, story is becoming much more important and it needs to be there, but I really want to see more action from the Halo franchise because of the gameplay. The Halo series has offered some of the most accessible and fun gameplay and that is what I am really looking forward to.
Continuing the story arc of Master Chief and Cortana will be exciting and I hope the writers are up to the task but I am really looking at 343 Studios to churn out the same level of gameplay that Bungie gave us and that we loved. Playing Halo online or offline with friends is awesome and I want to be able to continue that experience with even further expanded elements. 343 can take what Bungie did right and expand on it.
But, with all that said, this still seems like a cash-in and I am questionable about the quality considering Bungie isn’t at the helm. It is clear that a lot of love was put into Halo: Reach and it turned out fantastic. Can 343 give us that kind of game? No one can really know right now but suffice it to say I will be surprised if Halo 4 is as good as Reach. Sure the game is a cash-in but can you really blame Microsoft? Do you honestly think you wouldn’t want to milk that cash cow as long as you could if you were at the helm? Let’s just hope that Microsoft and 343 don’t see this as a cash-in while making it and the quality doesn’t suffer.
But, in general, I am more open to seeing more entries in the franchises that I love because it is a chance for the gameplay experience to get even better. It is more realistic to assume that the experience will get better on a AAA title than it is to assume that the gameplay will get worse because developers have the chance to get feedback and make the games better. The fact that 343 is behind the game is the real hiccup. Will they learn from what Bungie did right or will they go their own way and toss the dice? Time will tell but what do you all think? Are these new Halo games, or video game sequels in general, a good idea or something you will pass on?
Friday, June 17, 2011
Similar to superhero games, video game movies should have some success but never seem to be that great. Many of the best video games have been brought to life on the big screen (Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Max Payne) but they rarely hit the mark and are criticized high and wide for their poor acting, bad story, cheesy effects, or any combination of those things and more. It has been a curiosity of mine why video game movies don’t work and I have put a lot of thought into the topic. I think I may have come up with a solution and I’ll try to piece it together for everyone. I think the main problem can be boiled down to several points, the most crucial being: non-gamers’ involvement, poor writing, expectations, and a passive medium.
The first problem that I believe most video game movies suffer from is the involvement of non-gamers at a high level, like the director for example. These people aren’t bad at what they do but they don’t fully understand video games either. They think that the best way to create a “video-game” atmosphere in a game is to make the movie as much like the game in as many little ways as possible. They abruptly and openly reference the games with shot-for-shot comparisons (look at the end scene of Street Fighter) and other, smaller, details like ridiculous looking costumes and stuff like that.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love that they utilize the source material and try to make it authentic but sometimes it doesn’t work too well, mainly because they choose to focus on the wrong subtleties (like looks) and not the important ones (like characterization). Most video game characters have distinct personalities that are only parodied in video game movies. But this issue is not really the big problem with video game movies; the other problems are much more serious and require more attention.
The second problem that I find with many video game movies is that the writing is not very good. Apparently the writers believe that dialogue for the movie needs to be just as cheesy, if not more so, than the dialogue in the game itself. Video games are a growing entertainment medium and can’t be clumped in the same maturity level as the well refined movie genre. Motion pictures have been around for almost 100 years whereas games haven’t been around half that long. So, when you take the cheesy dialogue of a game and insert it into a film, the medium itself (by its very nature) spits it out. The film medium is not perfect by any means but it does require more maturity than video games. Why do you think cheesy dialogue in a game is accepted but that same dialogue in a movie is hated?
For video game movies to be successful, they need to take the video game dialogue and atmosphere and adapt it for the big screen. Character development is more important in a movie than a game (this is changing but is still by and large true) so this needs to be a priority for the movie. Also, the action needs to be more like action movie action and less like crappy movie action pretending to be video game action. A bigger budget would help with this but there need to be some great video game movies before big budgets are handed out by studios.
The next big problem with video game movies is people’s expectations. Part of the reason people don’t enjoy movies is because they hype it up so much that the finished product could never live up to their hype. Most video game movies are based off of highly popular video games and their fans are very excited to see a big screen adaptation. The problem is, they have these really high expectations because of how great the game was and these expectations can’t be fulfilled most of the time. Add to this the fact that video game plots are usually tailored to an interactive experience not a passive experience and you have my next, and most crucial, point.
Video games are an interactive medium; you step into the shoes of a character (or create your own) and you do the action. How the game unfolds is up to you and when something needs doing that is your problem to deal with. Movies are a passive medium; you sit, you watch, you enjoy. There is no interactivity in a movie and that makes people long for it, they want to be the character so they buy the licensed game even though it is usually bad. This doesn’t work the other way around people don’t want to step out of the game and watch the character. This disconnect is the biggest problem with the transition from video games to movies, people want to control their character in a game and they can’t do that in a movie. This difference is what makes the medium of video games great but it also makes it difficult to transition to other passive media like television or, as we have been talking about, movies.
Does this mean that video game movies can’t work? Of course not, they just need to start doing things differently. They need to start taking themselves as serious, self-contained, movies and not video game movies. Video game movie is almost a paradox because of the differences in the two media. The movie needs to first be a good movie, and then be associated with a good game. This is the same thing that a licensed video game based on a movie needs, it needs to be a good game first and foremost, and then it can be associated with the movie. The medium that is chosen needs to play to its strengths first before invoking another, conflicting, medium of entertainment.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
For this list I’ve decided to count down my favorite supporting characters in the Mass Effect series. Over the course of two games we have seen many supporting characters but the number is still relatively small so I’ll count down my top 5. Here we go
5. Urdnot Wrex
Wrex is a Krogan which, for those of you who aren’t initiated, means he’s a badass. The Krogan people are a war like race and it shows in Wrex. You first meet him on your way to confront Fist in the Citadel; you want information, he’s been hired to kill Fist. Wrex is always the first to jump into a fight and his redundant nervous system makes him a powerful ally. As long as you have some pull with him you can save him from the Virmire mission and see him as clan leader in Mass Effect 2 and, apparently, in Mass Effect 3.
4. Ashley Williams
Ash is one of the most developed characters in the first Mass Effect game because of her close relationship with Shephard. She comes from a military background but still can’t get too far because of her ancestor who was the first human to surrender to an alien force. She speaks about her family and is open about her beliefs and other things that make her feel like a real person. Her feelings and thoughts seem in line with what the average person would think, she is straight forward, blunt at times, but always knows when to call BS and what to do about it. She seems like she will be a crucial part of Mass Effect 3 and I’m glad because her cameo in Mass Effect 2 made me disappointed. I can’t wait to see how her character has changed from the first game to the third game.
Mordin is one of the only characters that has surprised me with his abilities. Not only is the Salarian a brilliant scientist, but he is also a very skilled combatant. His line “thought I was harmless did you?” is pure gold and he is almost always in my squad. His character is well developed as well, he has cold and calculating morals (see: revamping Krogan genophage) but also has a softer side (see: singing Gilbert and Sullivan parody) It is apparent, especially in his loyalty quest, that he has some mixed feelings about the things that he has done and this fleshes out his character very well. I am hoping to see a lot more of him in Mass Effect 3 where, from the demos shown, he seems to be trying to help the Krogan.
2. Liara T’soni
Liara underwent massive changes from the first game to the second. In the first game we saw her as a naïve archeologist studying the Protheans. She was helpful to the cause with her biotics and her knowledge of the Protheans but she wasn’t a particularly interesting character. Yes, her species was interesting, but she wasn’t, at least not until Mass Effect 2. Liara became a powerful information dealer rivaling, and eventually taking over the place of, the Shadow Broker. She became more cold and imposing as evidenced by the first thing we hear her say in Mass Effect 2. She repeats a line that her mother, Matriarch Benezia, said in the first game about humans facing an Asari commando unit. She seemed more ruthless but reverted as soon as she saw Shephard. Hopefully Shephard’s influence on her will keep her honest and stop her from becoming a ruthless killer, which seemed like where she was headed. Mass Effect 3 should hold some great stuff for Liara and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.
1. Garrus Vakarian
Garrus went through a lot of changes in character from Mass Effect 1 to the sequel, and these changes served his character development very well. Garrus started out Mass Effect 1 as a fed-up C-Sec officer who wanted a chance to take down Saren and do it without any red tape. He seemed pretty capable right off the bat (he took down the thug with an impressive headshot in the clinic) but Shephard still seemed to be his militant superior. When we see him in Mass Effect 2 he is much more grizzled and jaded. He has been fighting the bad guys in any way, including sniping them on Omega, and it has clearly taken a toll. However, his skills are much more honed and he seems to be a more formidable opponent. The injuries he sustains to his face only serve to make him look, on the outside, like his character on the inside. He is a broken-hearted, jaded, and bitter man who seems to be spiraling downhill from the righteous path. He killed Sidonis and though it seemed just for what he did, it still seemed cold and unlike Garrus, even Shephard noticed and made a comment. I can’t wait to see where Garrus goes next, will he have an epiphany and turn back to the stalwart hero or stay the jaded anti-hero of the second game? Only time will tell.