Friday, May 28, 2010

Question of the Week: Hardly Heroic

By GM Staff

This was a fun one. Our answers, after the break...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Homer Tracy's Road to the Show

By David Tracy

Have you ever heard of baseball great Homer Tracy? No? That's probably because Homer Tracy is the character that I play in MLB 10: The Show and he is not very good.

It's not that he isn't trying. He attends batting practice multiple times a week, he warms up well before each and every game. It's just that when it comes right down to it, he chokes. He consistently swings at the worst pitches and when he does make contact, the ball goes foul or it dribbles pathetically towards the infield for a very easy out. At least he looks awesome in his uniform and cool shades. Even the laces of his glove match the team colors.

One of the great things about The Show is the "Road to the Show," during which players get a chance to build a character and work through the majors, theoretically becoming one of those baseball superstars that kids aspire to be. Easy, right? I dutifully spent a good amount of time making Homer look like me. I named him after my wiener dog. And then I started Homer on the road and was quickly reminded that baseball is hard.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stupendous Thing of the Day

Give a listen to this catchy number, accompanied by an equally charming video:



Mark Ronson's Circuit Breaker (Homage to Zelda) from Jordan Galland on Vimeo.

Who knew Ganon could play the congas? And the found-object turntable? Link should have taken that to Maker Faire!

Spoilsports

"I take reasonable care around here to hide spoilish discussion after a jump, and you can ask me in conversation not to spoil you on certain things; I'll certainly take it under advisement. But if you care that much, you watch it right away, you stay off the internet until you can, or you…stop caring that much and just enjoy the experience of the show or movie. The internet means we can get information right away; that has a downside. Live with it."
-Sarah Bunting, Tomato Nation

"For their part, critics are badly misapplying their energies when, years after BioShock's release, they are still warning of spoilers while writing about BioShock's third act. Worse are the readers who upbraid any critic who fails to preface any disclosure about BioShock's third act with a spoiler warning. Here is a spoiler: Eventually, you have to grow up."
- Tom Bissell, Crispy Gamer

"Shakespeare spoils "Romeo and Juliet" right in the prologue. (They die, by the way.) Theodore Dreiser didn't call his novel "An American Story That I Can't Say Anything More About." And I hate to blow it for you, but "Death in Venice" lives up to its name. Not everything is a whodunit, and a work is more than its outcome. Suspense is a lovely element, but it's not the whole megillah; if it were, nobody would ever watch a Hitchcock film twice."
-Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

"Maybe we’re gradually outgrowing our obsession with spoilers after all. Then again, as games become even more procedural, the whole argument could become increasingly moot. No one will be able to tell you how your game's story will play out, not even the developer herself."
- Jason Killingsworth, Paste
(post format inspired by Leigh Alexander)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Red Dead Redemption's Excellent Sound Design

By Kirk Hamilton

Even when held up alongside the spectacular releases of the past eight months, Red Dead Redemption displays a rare level of technical artistry. The graphics, animations and physics engine are incredibly well-done, and the audio is truly in a class by itself. Not only is the game's sound design well-executed, detailed and immersive, it's quite clever and is often creatively woven into the gameplay itself.

I should disclose that I'm biased towards the game's audio design - my friend Rob Katz, a great musician with whom I went to music school, was an audio programmer on the game. But my bias notwithstanding, I believe that he and fellow programmer Corey Shay, along with audio designers Steven Von Kampen, Christian Kjeldseon, Corey Ross and lead audio designer Jeffery Whitcher have done such an outstanding job that their work stands on its own. I wanted to highlight a few things that struck me as particularly noteworthy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Want to Box Peter Molyneux


By Dan Apczynski

Look, I’m not a violent person. I’ve never been the kind of guy who feels that problems are best solved through aggression. It’s just that Fable 3 is looming on the horizon, and I feel it necessary to announce this creeping desire of mine: I want to box Peter Molyneux. Please, let me clarify—I don’t want to hurt Peter Molyneux. Not even a little bit. I don’t even know how to box, so he’s guaranteed to land at least a few solid punches. I just want to climb into the ring as two consenting adults, consenting to... you know, hit each other.

Alas, I realize that the readership of our humble blog almost certainly does not include Peter Molyneux, and it’s probably never going to happen. So in lieu of an actual fight night, here is an imagined series of events that might just mirror the real thing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Scene From a Plane

An aisle seat, 10,000 feet,
and Portal on my MacBook.
Sweet!

Bathroom's got a longish line;
they watch my game
to pass the time

So I flip through
orange to blue
and wonder:
Gang, how's this for you?

As your bored eyes
pass by my screen,
are you intrigued by what you see?

No audio, no context clues;
a strange parade of testing rooms

The same white walls,
same deadly falls,
same caution signs and energy balls
 

repeat themselves throughout the lab;
I fear these folks will find it drab!

I hope the fun I'm having's clear;
I laugh at jokes they cannot hear,
 

furrow my brow like I don't know
the tricks I learned three years ago

 (Though really, there's no need to feign
enjoyment of this awesome game)

I hope they'll check it out; it's free!
and they can fall in love, like we
did and maybe after that, who knows?
They'll see how deep the portal goes...

I catch myself; okay, okay,
I'm getting a bit carried away

Time to return my full capacity
to Glad0s's taunts and Chell's tenacity
and pastries of dubious veracity



-

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Playing A Role

By Kirk Hamilton

In a post from earlier this week, I wrote of Square Enix's DS game The World Ends With You that "the story has so many original ideas firing at once that it hardly even feels like a JRPG." After I wrote that sentence, I started thinking about what the term "JRPG" even means, about what kind of game does "feel like a JRPG."  And what is a "JRPG" in the first place?

I certainly don't associate the acronym with the words it proports to represent; that is, I don't think of a "Role-Playing Game From Japan." I think of predefined characters, linear stories, sixty-hour campaigns, turn-based combat, big hair, big swords, and melodrama. I think of Square Enix, I think of the PS1, I think of people saying "..." a lot and I think of great music. I think of the 90's. But I don't really think of "role-playing," at least not in the sense that I used to play D&D back in the day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What a Twist!

Hey, let me ask you guys and gals a question: Do you care about the gender of your game's character? I mean, do you ever find yourselves annoyed that Link isn't a girl? Ok, bad example, since Link is pretty like a girl, and kills bad guys with a boomerang like a girl (or maybe that's just a West Coast thing, I don't know). Or how about "Q*berta", "Duchess Nukem" and "Jack Valentine"?

Well, even though a lot of newer games are a bit more progressive about customizing protagonists to a player's specifications, many of gaming's classic characters are locked inside whatever body was originally coded for them. Until now, anyway.



Thomas Landry over at nerdbastards.com has created a full series featuring famous game characters re-imagined as the opposite gender, and they are pretty damn awesome. My personal favorite has got to be Lady Kratos. If I can figure out between now and October how to stuff my ridiculous hair into a bald cap, I'm totally going as her for Halloween.

Question Of The Week: This Is A Tribute

 By GM Staff

No wordy preamble this week - the question is pretty self-explanatory. Everyone's got a tune they rock harder than all the others; our answers after the break.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Critical Comparison: "Chaos Rings" and "The World Ends With You"

By Kirk Hamilton

Though reviews are still relatively few and far-between, Media.Vision and Square Enix's new iPhone RPG Chaos Rings has gotten a very positive reception. Many critics appear compelled to describe the game as good despite its platform, comparing it favorably to Square Enix's recent console releases. According to IGN's 9.0 review, "Chaos Rings is not an amazing adventure game for the iPhone. It is an amazing adventure game – period." Destructoid gives the game a 9.5, stating that "Chaos Rings isn't just a superb iPhone RPG, it's a truly terrific RPG in its own right. Better than Square Enix's recent console output, this title outclasses many recent JRPG experiences." Seth Scheisel at The New York Times isn't afraid to cut to it and name names, writing that "as an overall entertainment and design experience, Chaos Rings is more successful and ultimately more enjoyable than Final Fantasy XIII."

I beg to differ with those reviews, though not about the quality of the game. While I do want to walk back a bit of the praise I gave in my recent post concerning its amazing music, I still find Chaos Rings to be a very enjoyable RPG and well worth its $12.99 asking price. My point of contention lies with the comparisons those reviews draw to Square Enix's previous releases, specifically the choice to contrast Chaos Rings with Final Fantasy XIII. While I understand the desire to present a David/Goliath scenario in which the plucky portable game bests the console megablockbuster, I submit that the more appropriate comparison is with Square Enix and Jupiter's 2008 DS game The World Ends With You.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Vintage Game-Inspired Gifts: A Primer

By Annie Wright

I often have my best inspirations when I am in the most inconvenient situations possible. Last week, I flew home from Indianapolis. I was thoughtfully applying the Zelda Method to my airport experience somewhere between the airline counter and the full frontal nudity security checkpoint, when I had a great gift idea for my pal Francis' birthday.

Typically, I suck at giving gifts. I mean, I know what I would want for my birthday (my own pony, my own robot, and money. In that order), but after one turns 21, birthdays are kind of a crap shoot. Honestly, the local game/bookstore gift card is a genuine winner in 90% of all situations, but sometimes you have that one friend with whom you share fond memories of after-school Mario Kart marathons and basement LAN parties, and the situation just demands that you do something special.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Question of the Week: Addicted to Rageohol

By GM Staff

You're fifteen minutes past the last checkpoint on what feels like your twentieth attempt to take out some insanely cheap and frustrating mid-game boss. The last two hours of your life have been spent watching the same unskippable, maddeningly enthusiastic cutscene and then dying while trying to figure out a workaround. And just when you think that by some combination of blind luck and pattern memorization you might finally end this depressing chapter of your life, the game snatches victory away in the cruelest way possible.

It's the last straw. Veins pop, fists tighten, strained invectives fly, new curse-word combinations are invented. Vows are made. Games are sworn off forever.

We're mature, reasonable folk here at Gamer Melodico, but that doesn't mean we haven't experienced our fair share of game-related anger. We're guessing that some of you have some pretty good stories, so feel free to share. We won't judge you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Man of Conviction

By Kirk Hamilton

My review of Splinter Cell: Conviction is now online at Paste Magazine. For all the crap I've given the game about its ridiculous dialogue, hackneyed story and forced edginess, I really did enjoy it.

One of the more interesting things about reviewing a game like Conviction is the behind-the-scenes stuff that one must take into account when writing about the finished product. That is to say, a huge part of the game Conviction is is due to the game it never was. The long long road from there to here informs the finished product, and interestingly, the game works best when Ubisoft Montreal innovates within their existing formula rather than attempting to reinvent it.

And you know what? Rockstar and Valve are great, but Ubisoft Montreal is kinda my favorite AAA development studio right now. A few thoughts on why after the break.