Saturday, June 20, 2015

Pro-tips for First Person Shooters

I decided to make a small guide for those of you struggling with most first person shooters. This list is relatively generic and applies to most current games out there but it may not be all encompassing. If you would like to add your own tips, please leave them in the comments below.
  1. Know the map - This is not limited to just the ins and outs of each environment (although that is key), but it also includes observing player tendencies over time to predict the most likely path they will take. If you notice that your opponents are going to one area more often than not, prepare to meet them there.
  2. When In Doubt, Always Know Your Way Out - You will always need to know the way out of every room of every building or corridor you enter, in case you are ever caught by surprise. 
  3. Crouch or go prone near cover whenever you can. The smaller the target, the more difficult it is to hit.
  4. Understand the Radar -  This is absolutely vital to your survival as enemy movement is constant and fairly unpredictable unless you have a firm grasp of how the radar on your UI (User Interface) functions. If you can maintain focus on that while firing or while moving from cover to cover, you'll be much better off.
  5. Know your angles - Know where your blind spots are, the choke points, and what cover you can hide behind.
    • Vantage points - any elevated areas where you can view a large amount of the surrounding area you're playing in. Useful for surprising the enemy and scouting ahead.
    • Choke point - an area which is 'funneled' meaning it is small and enclosed, and forces the enemy into narrow passageways. This is also known as a "bottle neck".
  6. Double Tap - When in doubt, don't get stingy with your bullets. Make sure your opponent is down and STAYS down. Headshots are always preferred over body shots, but make the best use of the reaction time you have. 
  7. Don't try to be the MVP (Most Valuable Player) - Don't risk victory just to make yourself look good by trying to pull a "Hail Mary". Play it smart and revive your teammates whenever possible. There is strength in numbers.
  8. Communication is key - Being able to articulate quickly and efficiently where your opponents are or where they are heading is important. Every bit of information helps, but do not be excessive.
  9. Practice makes perfect - Keep training your aim and reflexes until you are comfortable being able to hit your targets effectively. This more or less ties into knowing your guns, their recoil, and their other stats.

The Underrated Underdog Console: Wii U

So the Wii U has been out in the U.S. since November 18, 2012. It's barely even three years old yet and people are tossing it aside like it's not worth making games's gotten to the point where even Nintendo has started to convince themselves that the console is a sinking ship and that everyone should move on to the next project, codenamed: NX.

Developing software for the Wii U is a Catch-22 situation: Publishers and developers seem to think that they will not make much profit on the fledgling console, but by not developing for the system at all, Nintendo will never truly grow outside of their first party franchises.

What irritates and frustrates me the most is that these companies are often providing "half-assed" games when they do decide to contribute to the Wii U library because on the competing platforms (PC, XBOX 360/XBOX ONE and PS3/PS4, respectively) the games have all of their original features intact. As such, players that pick up a copy of the game for the Wii U are not getting the full value of what they initially paid for.

Warner Bros. for instance, did not include an online multiplayer mode for Batman Arkham Origins, while Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist has an online multiplayer mode, but no local split screen co-op.

Granted, this isn't the first instance of companies applying this "laissez-faire" (or "do-nothing") type of approach to Nintendo's platform. However, this practice has become far worse due to the sheer number of companies hopping on this informal policy bandwagon.

Treyarch, (and by the transitive property, Activision) in my opinion, is one of the worst offenders of this nonchalant apathy towards Nintendo and is guilty of making false promises on more than one occasion. This was evident during the Wii era with Call of Duty: Black Ops lack of DLC (although, that console's limitations were clearly evident) and with Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the Wii U now. It took Treyarch two years after the game was released to develop the Nuketown 2025 map, which was long overdue. Call of Duty: Ghosts by Infinity Ward in comparison managed to finally get the Freefall map several months after the other consoles received it.

Ubisoft proved that DLC was possible on Nintendo's latest hardware by offering transactions for Assassin's Creed III. Sources reported however, that these options would not be available for the latest installment of the franchise, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

On a much more positive note, Ubisoft creative director Jonathan Morin had briefly discussed his latest title, Watch_Dogs, stating in an interview with CVG (ComputerAndVideoGames) that it is "...a beautiful game on Wii U and it's cool to play it just on the GamePad". In addition a comparison between that version and the other on PS3 and XBOX 360 was made of Morin and he claimed that "On the Wii U, you can play on the GamePad screen. There are no new features or anything like that - it's the same game, but we're optimizing the controls for the beast that is the Wii U GamePad".

So there is some hope for the Wii U considering that a few (if not many) games will have all of the bells and whistles that the other platforms come with naturally. (You can read the conversation in its entirety here.)

That's not to say that all of the blame is on the third-party developers. Au contraire! Nintendo has not exactly done an optimal job of generating public awareness of what the Wii U actually is, or what it is capable of either. Initially, many folks believed it to be an add-on to the existing Wii console (perhaps due to the name). Thus, perhaps folks viewed it as an unnecessary peripheral rather than an entirely new home console.

The sad thing is that most companies are advertising that their games will be on "next-gen" consoles, but they deliberately exclude the Wii U. As such, it's fallen into this abstract, unknown, unspoken category.

How can Nintendo get back on top? I would suggest just belting out as many games as possible. There has been a positive shift since Mario Kart 8 was released and even moreso with Super Smash Bros. Wii U. Hopefully, with the sales of the Amiibo figures, profits gained from those sales can apply to some of Nintendo's major financial losses.

How this information will affect other publisher and developer opinions remains to be determined, but it does not bode well in this economic climate. On one last positive note, Nintendo's latest intellectual property, Splatoon for the Wii U is doing quite well as a third person shooter. It's a game where characters known as "Inklings"— beings that can transform between humanoid and squid-like forms, hide or swim through colored ink sprayed on surfaces using gun or brush-based weaponry. The object of the game is not to score points via kills, but through covering territory with the most amount of ink. It's a game that has become quite popular despite the sluggish sales of the home consoles themselves.

We as gamers need to be patient and keep watching to ensure that Nintendo gets its fair share of publicity and we need to stop treating it like the third political party in an election. The more competition between the three major competing companies, the lower the prices will be for the consumer.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My E3 2015 Predictions & Expectations


I'd like Nintendo to ideally make a new Custom Robo game. The last one that came out was back in March 19, 2007 with Custom Robo Arena. The development company is called NOISE and has worked with Nintendo for a number of years, however, it has been quite some time since their last title.

As such, I think it would be a great undertaking if Nintendo were to re-visit the franchise, especially with the release of the upcoming game, Little Battlers eXperience. In that game, (which is based off of an animated series about kids building miniature, remote controlled mecha models, battling them, all while taking on a secret conspiracy that utilize the mechs for their own ambitions) players can customize their mechs with a plethora of different parts and weapons. I feel as though this would be the perfect time to make this upcoming year the year of the mechs!

This holds merit when one considers that the upcoming title Xenoblade Chronicles X has giant humanoid mech suits called "Skells" ("Dolls" in the Japanese version), which are used to combat the various enemies in the expansive open world environment.

I also expect to see Starfox Wii U with an all new trailer for the game, as well as a brief glimpse into the main plot (if possible). I've been a fan of the Starfox games since the release of Starfox 64 (I have yet to beat it sadly, as I've only recently downloaded the game on the Wii's Virtual Console). I did however manage to complete Star Fox Assault and rather enjoyed the game.

Although Nintendo mentioned that The Legend of Zelda for the Wii U would not be featured at E3, I still sort of hope that maybe they will toss out a teaser trailer or something to whet our ferocious appetites. In addition, I eagerly await more information on Fire Emblem and the Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem crossover.

I'd like to see a brand new Pokémon Snap, and a new Metroid game as well, but perhaps those ideas should be locked away for now. I think it would be fantastic to be able to once again revisit the Metroid Prime Hunters universe with a sequel that has a truly dedicated multiplayer first person shooter experience (most desired on the Wii U) with Samus Aran, Weavel, Sylux, Kanden, Spire, Noxus, and Trace.


The one game I'm most interested in with regards to Sony is Tom Clancy's: The Division. I eagerly anticipate more details and gameplay footage that will assure that my decision to purchase the game will be a worthwhile investment.

Microsoft, Activision, & et cetera

As for Microsoft, Bethesda, and the rest, I want to be surprised and dazzled by their showcases. I don't know exactly what to look for, but I'm hoping that overall, I will be impressed.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Gamer Journalism: Pointing Fingers Without Taking Blame

As a gamer, I like to think of myself as among a group of individuals (male or female) that may or may not have a selective interest in virtual media. I've perhaps stated once before that video games are akin to books in that (more often than not) they tell a story of some kind, whether it's simple or complex. They come in a variety of different genres and styles, all with some sort of protagonist and antagonist. It's fair to say that one individual's tastes may differ from another's, but at the end of the day, those that use the medium are all collectively and equally described as "readers" or in this case, "gamers".

...Or so I thought. Apparently within the "gaming community" a storm has arisen. Rather, several storms are on the horizon so to speak, as gaming journalists are under fierce scrutiny as well as the very vulnerable medium itself. On social media, common hashtags have surfaced such as #GamerGate and #GamesSoWhite. (For those unaware of what is trending, there have been numerous political discussions regarding racial depictions in video games as well as sexism in video game culture.)

Essentially, a culture war has been manifesting over gaming culture diversification, artistic recognition and social criticism of video games, which all incorporate a gamer's "social identity". 

Gamergate for instance, was the result of a sustained campaign of misogynistic attacks back in August of 2014 against game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu, in addition to the feminist cultural critic, Anita Sarkeesian, who were subjected to severe cyber-bullying and multiple death threats. Now, while some individuals using the #gamergate hashtag have stated that their goal is to improve the ethical standards of video game journalism by peacefully opposing social criticism in video game reviews (which they claim is the result of a conspiracy among feminists, progressives and social critics) others have used more distasteful methods. It's become somewhat frustrating (as well as downright exhausting) as some gamers view this phenomenon as a detour of legitimate gaming reviews focused primarily on the premises of the games themselves while others view this as a rather valid critique.

The most recent trend has been about the depictions (or lack thereof) of minority characters in video games. I tend not to dwell too much upon how many minorities are visible in a video game (despite being a minority in real life), but every now and then, I'm reminded of the panel on Politics in Video Games I attended at ColossalCon back in 2012. That panel discussed many subtle issues in many of the games I played. I typically will create characters (whenever possible in a customizable game) reflective of my own racial skin tone, but for the most part I feel that it's mostly aesthetic and has no bearing on how I play the game. My skills tell the tale, not how my protagonist looks.

One troubling thought that never occurred to me prior to that panel was the fact that the protagonist of the Legend of Zelda franchise, Link, was a blonde haired, blue-eyed character that could have been easily associated with the Aryan race along with Princess Zelda, while Ganondorf, the antagonist (and the only male minority Gerudo character) was not, and was considered "evil" (In some of the games, he's merely jealous of Hyrule's prosperity and acted out of envy. One game in particular, The Wind Waker, comes to mind.) More often than not, there are few, if any, meaningful minority characters at all in a majority of video games. Most of the time, players are playing as a Caucasian male. This is certainly not reflective of the times. That's not to say that there should be mandated quotas, but some ethnic diversity is more than welcome.

Nonetheless, it has sort of popped my proverbial "bubble" in the fantasy realm. I now look at some of my games through a begrudgingly tainted perspective. A once enjoyable escape from the harshness of reality, has now become grossly entangled in its grasp.

As a political science graduate, I can obviously see the correlations between my favorite pastime and politics. However, as such, it truly pains me to see how hostile and divided the gaming community has become. I like to view the personal and political aspects of life to be somewhat equal, but separate entities (much like the separation of "Church & State"). There may be a bit of a spillover effect from one end to the other, or vice-versa, but too much of one aspect without consideration for the other can, and often will, produce disastrous results.

I suppose what I wish to happen is a tolerance AND a formal acknowledgement of the cultural and ethical dilemmas posed in video games, at least for now (that is, until gradual improvements have been made). Change will not happen overnight. In addition, many folks are not as tolerant of change as others (which is fine, to an extent). Yet, what players & journalists need to realize is that the industry itself is only one facet of the problem, while the consumers themselves are another. Both are at fault, as I see it, because consumers have the power to boycott those products that they don't agree with, thereby forcing developers to re-evaluate their content in order to produce a worthwhile product. (I've done so myself countless times).

I hope that as the dust settles, we can get back to discussing the plots and storylines of games rather than being so enamored with the political miasma of a game. Games are meant to be thought-provoking, amusing, and enjoyable...not capable of inducing undue burden.