Nathanael Cole / Alliterated Games

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My Seven Favorite Vidjagames from 2011

Been thinking about this one a bit, but I’ll keep this one quick. I mention them along with the platforms on which I played and preferred them. Starting with number seven…

7. Afterfall: Insanity (PC)

This game received very little fanfare, and still doesn’t have an official support or community discussion forum anywhere online. It’s a damn solid third-person horror game, which clearly takes immense amounts of inspiration from the Dead Space series, especially in controls and user interface. The action is fun, the scares are scary, and despite some kinda lame writing, the story is actually pretty interesting. I look forward to seeing more from this studio.

Link: Afterfall on Gamersgate

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Man, Gaming is Pretty Darn Good Right Now

I’m in something of a High Nirvana era of personal gaming enjoyment. I feel that there are more awesome gaming opportunities around me than ever before in my life. Tabletop, Video, Design, it’s a veritable cornucopia of exciting play. Let’s review!

As far as my table-topping goes, I’m in the middle of at least two games, with two more on the horizon. First is my Old School Palladium Fantasy sandbox game, which has had four gatherings so far and seems to be maintaining everyone’s excitement pretty nicely. This game is really doing a good job of reinvigorating me, both as an arbiter of events and as a creator of spontaneous content. I haven’t run this seat-of-the-pants in a long, long time, and it is quite simply titillating my gamer imagination. I go into each session with a mental picture of all the events happening in the world within a 20-mile radius of where the characters are, and as they move around, those events progress of their own accord. So far, the players have managed to hit up most of them quite nicely, and get themselves directly involved of their own volition. It’s wonderful. Read More »

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Alpha Protocol is One of the Best Video RPGs I’ve Ever Played

Bold statement, that, yes? And I mean every syllable of it. Let me explain.

Despite mostly-mediocre or slightly-above-average reviews, I have fully immersed myself in this game over the last few days, and plan to keep that up for the next few to follow. After completing the first two “chapters” of the game, I am convinced that like Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, Alpha Protocol is one of the best representations I’ve ever seen of core tabletop RPG concepts being implemented in a digital gaming format.

So far, I’m in love with this game, and want to tell you all about all of its awesome components, right there alongside all of its annoying and downright awful ones. But this isn’t a review. Don’t get me started on how I feel that most graded online game reviews are totally bunk. I’ll save that for a later time. No, this is more of an essay.

When asking gamers to declare “what defines a game as a RPG,” you’ll get a good variety of answers. Most console gamers will be quick to define a RPG as a game with a skill-based advancement system, where the internal mechanics of your character improve as you invest rewarded experience points into them. Many tabletop gamers will tell you that yes, advancement is fun or even crucial, but the ability to make choices for their characters is also pretty requisite. Without choice, you’re really only playing a limited combat-based board game with progressing development mechanics. Without choice, you’re not playing a role. Read More »

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End-of-Week 6/4/2010: Itchy Tasty

Been a damn busy week. Not enough time for blogging! So here’s my weekend update, a day late.

First, a link. Check out Universal Dead, a new low-budget web series about zombies. It’s… not bad. Not bad at all.

For the last few days I’ve been going back and forth between Dragon Age and Alpha Protocol. My current goal in Dragon Age is to play as a solo Archer Rogue + Dog combo for as long as I can manage, outside of the few spots in the game where other companions are forced upon you. I’ve always been a fan of odd “challenge runs” in video games, and I figure this one would be called the “Post-Apocalypse” DA run – survivor + dog, in other words.

Alpha Protocol has been fun. I see a game series in the making here, and this one’s a good start. It reminds me a lot of the original Mass Effect – awesome in many ways, but marred by some rather aggravating design choices. I’m only a few hours in, though, so I’ll save my full decision for a later time after more hands-on experience with it.

I met a few awesome folks and sold a few more copies of Cannibal Contagion this past Memorial Day. Guardian Games hosted their second annual “May of the Dead” celebration, and I was there pimpin’ my game and hanging out with my fellow nerd. Had some great talks with a fellow from the local chapter of the Zombie Squad, and ran a hilariously fun session of my game for a new crew of survivors. Thanks for playing, folks!

I’ll close this post with some thoughts on video game trailers. First, read this article. Go ahead, it’s a good read. Watch all the trailers.

Done? Understand that I get where the writer is coming from, and I whole-heartedly disagree. I want actual game-play footage in my video game trailers, goddammit. Without actual gameplay footage, I might have made the mistake of purchasing any number of generic “guns plus one cool trick no one else does” first-person shooters. I want to actually see how this game is different. You can take a shitty game, give it an awesome story, and fill the trailer with so many awesome cinematics and popular industrial tunes and the consumers won’t know the depth of your deception until they pay for it and hate it, because you never showed them the actual game.

I want to see the game. I don’t give a rat’s ass about marketing cinematics which most likely won’t even be in the final product, and probably look better than that product will, too. Yeah, that new Deus Ex trailer looks cool, and shows us a wonderful cyberpunk world with a compelling story. SO did the trailers for Neocron. Remember how much that game sucked?

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End-of-Week Notes 5-14-2010: The Baseball Bat of Justice

Just a small handful of things spring to mind in review of this week. Two nights ago I started up a new Fallout 3 game, this time with the intention of playing it like a true Wastelander. That means: not hoarding every single thing I find back in my locker at Megaton, foraging as I go, using only the weapons I can scavenge and maintain as I go, dropping what I can’t carry, and leaving small caches of equipment stashed here and there. This time my name is Shrike, a no-nonsense tough bitch from Vault 101, self-proclaimed protector of Megaton and its environs following the unfortunate violent death of its previous sheriff, the late Lucas Simms1.

So far, my quest has been well-fought but hard-won. I’ve lost a few circumstantial allies on occasion, including a poor scavenger who got caught in the crossfire when those no-good Talon Merc goons jumped me, but thankfully, word is getting out: Shrike’s gunning for the bad guys, and the bad guys be scared. Just last night I donned my favorite leather jacket2, pumped myself up on Buffout and MedX, and took out an entire clutch of nasty Raiders using only a Louisville Slugger I had affectionately named Pablo. I barely had time to catch my breath as I led my assault, needing to take them out with as much celerity as possible so as to maximize the effectiveness of my chemically-skyrocketed battle prowess. I charged through their compound – one insultingly forged out of the ruins of an old elementary school – and wiped their filthy souls from the planet with minimal injury. Then I slept off my wounds in their own beds, dragged their bodies into a central heap, peed on their dead leader’s corpse, and set them all ablaze with their own flamethrower before leaving the next morning.

I fucking hate Raiders.

What’s next for Shrike? Word is there’s some “family” of villains terrorizing the poor nearby settlement of Arefu. An easy-on-the-eyes dame named Lucy ain’t seen or heard from her folks up there in quite some time. As the new sheriff of these parts, I reckon it’s ’bout time I let these cheeky bastards know who’s now in charge ’round here. Time to go give this family a taste of the Baseball Bat o’ Justice. Pablo’s a close talker, a real social type.

This past Monday night saw another session of my weekly Savage Worlds game. I’ve become a bit slack with this game, owing in no small part to the increasing difficulty of me running games on Monday nights. This campaign’s days are acknowledgedly numbered, but thankfully this most recent session really got my blood pumping again. I eagerly await the ending few sessions of the series, in part because gaming on Mondays is takings its toll on me, but mostly because I really want to know what happens next. The beauty of running this game largely from the seat of my pants is that when it gets me, it really gets me, and I’m as eager to know the future as the players are. I’ll wait a few more sessions before I post things in detail, though.

I’ll end this post with a little idea: Iron Kingdoms, done with Warhammer FRP 3rd Edition. I think it would rock.

Footnotes

1 PS: thanks for the bitchin’ coat and hat, Luke. RIP
2 Tunnel Snakes rule! *shove*

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A Bit Beyond the Beyond

There’s a track just beginning to play right now on my home-to-work music streamer, and arriving alongside it is a flood of emotion. This tune is entitled “Above and Beyond,” and it is the 27th track on the soundtrack to the video game Beyond Good & Evil. A while back I wrote a rather lengthy blog entry on it, and hearing this right now, in the lulling last-hour stretch of my work day, has not-quite-but-just-slightly hit me with an intense longing to re-experience the moments that so solidly cemented this masterpiece into the most cherished vaults of my nostalgia.

I implore you: go play this game tonight. If you have already played it, go play it again. If you’ve never played it, get it off GoG.com or eBay and immerse yourself. It will only occupy about 10-20 hours of your life, but they will be nigh two dozen spans of sheer awesome.

And now that I’ve typed this much, the final battle anthem is coursing it’s synth-operatic pulses through my speakers, and I want to go home so badly and re-visit the world of Hillys, and take Miss Jade on another adventure through its intrigues, and then kick that guy’s ass to hell and back again.

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