Posts Tagged ‘column’

Postmortem — Borderlands 2 — 1Q2014

Borderlands 2 postmortem-web

Returning to Pandora one year later

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineIt’s been one year now since Borderlands 2 came screaming into my game library. Actually, it’s been more like one year and two months since the loud and brash shooter sequel made its acquaintance. And much like a new friend of a friend that you just met at a bar while getting drunk because you passed the bar exam, you have a few shots and look back on that night with a certain fondness. Fondness for your liquor, that is, not the new friend. More than likely, that new friend is now asking for money and showing up at your apartment at all hours of the night just to “hang.” But, I digress. Borderlands 2 is like that new friend except you don’t have to spend money for companionship. That is, unless you really feel like blowing your money for some decent distraction-type entertainment.

When the game was released, GI was in the throes of change and a new quarter. Change came in the form of me going it alone, since my previous partner who guided me around Pandora decided to head for parts unknown. I was on my own, but I was excited. I was ready to live life on Pandora with characters of my own and experiences shaped by my own actions without someone who knew the story by heart standing over my shoulder telling me that I was going about getting my murder on the wrong way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means a snob when it comes to killing things with help. I will never turn down an offer of joint killing when it comes to Borderlands, but I will be frank with you all: It sucks when you want to put your own brand of mayhem and death to the test and there’s someone who is literally sitting next to you going, “You should go here. You should change your class mod. You should use this gun. You should do this mission first.” Constantly. So much so that you learn the story before you even get started. Because they’re playing the game all day. Every day. You see my problem now? It was constantly in my face. So, I really didn’t get to enjoy the first game as much as I probably could have on my own. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have discovered it without that former partner so there’s that. But mostly, I was ready to rock on my own in the world, kind of like my real-life situation at the time.

GI was pulling out the stops on what we’d learned with the new game before its release. I wanted detailed coverage but I had to settle with what I could get in about three weeks of play. I bought the game as soon as I could, and I jumped right into the single-player campaign quickly. Now, I’m usually not in the habit of reviewing a game as soon as it comes out, mostly because I haven’t played enough of it to give you a good opinion. That’s why I leave the Now Playing hype machines to the experts like William Harrison. He’s on the ball when it comes to current games, and has the time to review things that the other writers don’t with the possible exception of Daniel Gibbs. But this time was different. We’d promised a review and we were going to deliver. And deliver we did.

I pulled my review goggles on and made a point to get down and dirty with the game. How did the second game handle the sequel transition? Was it worth coming back to Pandora for what was probably the ninth time (saying you did two playthroughs with all four characters of the first game)? Did Borderlands 2 live up to the hype and anticipation? Well, I’m still playing a year later, so it managed to do something right, I suppose. I’m usually not a fan of sequels — especially to awesome games — because I feel like it never works as good as the first time. But Borderlands 2, much like my drunk friend of a friend from the beginning, surprised me. It’s good company. I’m still learning things about the game well more than a year later, and I haven’t even touched the DLC or all of the characters.

Do I like it as much as the first game? No, and here’s why: It’s just not the same grittiness or stunning simplicity of Borderlands. Borderlands was frighteningly simple in its “killed or be killed” premise. The sequel, I feel, has some ulterior motive in its quest to get one over on me, the player. Yes, it’s funnier and a little more polished than the first. But, coming back to that new friend, it’s still asking me for money. For EVERYTHING. The first game had its DLC and costume stuff, but now there’s more monetization of everything in the game practically, and that’s not what Borderlands started out as. This isn’t to say I dislike Borderlands 2 for it, but there’s a limit of which I’m mindful when it comes to giving up maximum dollars for a game. Borderlands 2 is approaching it.

When I think back to the lead up to Borderlands 2, I’m reminded of the feeling I had in my heart of hearts. There was a sense of dread, that somehow the sequel wasn’t going to live up to the billing, and I’d be disappointed since I’d been waiting for at least a year for the game. I can tell you that I wasn’t disappointed. Afraid of change? Probably. But I don’t regret giving the game my attention and time. After all, as my Xbox 360 beacon proclaims, it’s still a new day to ride or die on Pandora.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseym@gaminginsurrection.com

04

01 2014

Continue Screen — 2Q2013

Continue-screen

An American woman in love with Japan

Lyndsey-101612-cutoutWhen I was in the seventh grade, in the heady days of 1993 and 1994, I fell in love with a nation. That’s not an easy feat, let me tell you. I am a red-blooded American woman who loves herself some of the good old U.S. of A, but my love for video games was unmatched, and it didn’t take long for me to figure out where they came from mostly.

In those halcyon days, I was an ignorant little wretch, playing what I could when I could with little money. All I could depend on was my mother getting paid every two weeks so that I could have a pittance of what she earned in the form of an allowance. I received $25, and the ink on the Treasury Department stacks was barely dry before I’d find a way to blow it on my favorite hobby/habit. Why, I could have saved millions by now probably if I hadn’t bought countless issues of GamePro and EGM that were summarily read at dinnertime from cover to cover. The gaming news of the day was most important for me, and I learned the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts of the trade and gaming journalism all at once. Call it a supplementary education if you will.

While I received a quite proper game education and academic merits in Columbia, S.C.’s public institutions of learning, at the arcade I was becoming cultured in the ways of the people speak. And at home, I was learning subtly about a country I’d never seen and still haven’t ventured forth to in the ensuing 20 years: Japan. My first glancing blow with the Land of the Rising Sun was through Street Fighter. Now, I realize like most people who play the series that there are several nations represented in the World Warrior tournament. Japan is one of many. However, the primary language spoken among all of the characters in the original version of Street Fighter II — with the exception of Zangief, Dhalsim and Guile — is Japanese. And yes, even Ken Masters, who is half Japanese, speaks Japanese fluently.

So, when I booted up the game after ignoring it in favor of Mortal Kombat, I realized there was something going on there and it wasn’t the good old English I was used to hearing. The shock of hearing the language for the first time was akin to being set free to roam in the world for the first time: I didn’t know how to act. I soaked up the language, enthralled with E. Honda’s stage and the concept of sumo. I’d never even heard of sumo at that point, and though I was aware of China and some of the food that I thought came from there (Americanized Chinese food is among my favorites), I had no idea about the history, customs or culture of either China or Japan. All of that changed when I did a shoryuken for the first time.

I dove into the world of a land I didn’t know with abandon. By the time my eighth grade year rolled around, I knew more about samurai and sumo than most 13-year-olds and I finally understood that Japan, at that point, was the place I needed to be because every game that I’d ever played had come from there. And thus began my lifelong dream of traveling.

I also had to learn two concepts at that point: Cultural sensitivity and open-mindedness. As a black teenage girl and now as a black woman, I had to learn that there are other people in the world besides myself and my own race of people. At the same time, I realized that there are people out there in the world that have preconceived notions about who I am and what I love. While I have a deep appreciation for Japanese culture, it is impossible for me to ever become Japanese. I can’t think Japanese, I certainly can’t speak it and I would never claim in any way, shape or form to understand the country’s way of life. However, I can indulge myself in what it has to offer and open my mind to it as well. So, when I’ve heard someone say that I am trying to “turn Japanese” because I happen to love geisha or watch a lot of anime or play a lot of video games, I shut that nonsense down.

That’s what this entire issue of Gaming Insurrection is about this quarter: We appreciate.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

06

04 2013

New column: Continue Screen — 1Q2013

Editor’s note: Continue Screen is a new column written by various members of GI on a quarterly basis. It’s basically a rant about whatever they want to discuss in the gaming industry. In 1Q2013, Contributing Editor William Harrison starts things off with a discussion of THQ’s policies.

Why marketing games the right way can make, break you

By William Harrison

Hello everyone, and welcome to one of what I hope will be many a mix of factorial and some personal experience/opinion editorial reports to come; so, please,bear with me. There have been many games in the industry that have been made with great hype, interesting media campaigns, hell, even Super Bowl placement all to sell to the consumer at large as well as the gaming community. This is done all with the hopes that they will be able to fund their next big or, sometimes small, idea that balloons way the hell out of control and takes on a life of its own. That’s where some, but yet a small part, of the delays in release come from. Publisher THQ could have learned a lesson from this and known to delay the game Homefront until it was more than just a polished turd with a really good story.

I say this because I was one of the many people who bought this game from the now-defunct developer KAOS Studios only to discover that it wasn’t worth the multimillion-dollar ads that it was portrayed to be. What we (i.e. the gaming community) actually got was one part of a great and somewhat original story, and an underdeveloped multiplayer that was a badly cloned mix of Call of Duty and Battlefield.

OK, before I go any further, I feel I should explain the whole developer versus publisher relationship for those who aren’t too familiar with how it works, better known as the consumer at large. Why do you think developer/publisher Acclaim was in business for so long? Not because they made great games; it’s because their subsidiaries, or developers, made great games for them.

Acclaim is now no more for the most part because of the business practices that lead to some of the subsidiaries — well, all of them – to jump ship to different publishers. It was more or less because of the fact that as a developer/publisher, Acclaim could produce (develop) and distribute and then sell (publish) its own games under the label of Acclaim using a majority of the profits from the other developers that work for them. Of course, they didn’t tell their subsidiaries this; I’m guessing it was made to look like a fine print transaction or something similar. Hell, they might have had the balls to be like “Oh by the way, we’re raising the percentage rate we make off every game sold under our label. Tough shitzu and deal. Have a nice day.” But that is an investigative editorial for another time.

Hopefully, I explained the relationship well enough so that you get the fact that just because a game has the THQ label on it doesn’t mean that they made the game, per se; it just made it available for the public. They may have had very little to do with making the game except for putting money toward it getting made. That doesn’t mean that the publisher has all their money in the right place. Take the game Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine from Games Workshop (creator and co-developer) and Relic Studios (developer), which is a platformer for the consoles and PC. When they got together to make this game, it was one of the best platformers I’d played in a long time. Granted, my main love is fighting games and anything that takes longer than eight hours to beat total play time (cough, RPGs, cough),but I occasionally like to relax with a Devil May Cry or a Sonic Adventure-style game where exploration is as fun as mowing down the masses.

But I digress. The simple fact of the matter is that some companies like to hype games they believe will sell a lot of copies, regardless of the fact that it might not be finished or that it has a great multiplayer system. Well, yes, I know it has worked for a lot of first-person shooters like the Call of Duty series and Battlefield as well as helping the Medal of Honor series pick up where it left off and make a decent game again. Yeah, EA, that was a shot at you … because my wrath is next upon you.

Anyway, Homefront could have been a great game had THQ decided that the game was ultimately not ready for release and then pushed it back to make to make a really good game worthy of a good single-player and multiplayer mode that was worthwhile. Unfortunately, what we got was a shooter that was buggy, not very good in some aspects, and looked liked it should have been released on PlayStation 2 or maybe the first Xbox.

Then, you have Space Marine, which had little-to-no hype whatsoever and is a very solid platformer that offers the right amount of challenge for all players. I think the combat system is slightly the basis for future Darksiders titles, but I could be wrong. The bottom line is this: Don’t try and jump in with both feet expecting to knock it out of the park when there more established titles that raise the bar. In the very least, don’t phone it in and pour money at the problem hoping the ad campaign will make everyone not notice how much of a polished turd it is. Even if it is polished, it’s still a damn turd.

William Harrison is a contributing editor for Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

 

05

01 2013