Sunday, November 20, 2016

Memorable Gaming Moments VI

Rez Infinite


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Memorable Gaming Moments V

Journey

Monday, August 15, 2016

Memorable Gaming Moments IV

No Man's Sky



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Memorable Gaming Moments III

Alien: Isolation


Friday, April 1, 2016

Memorable Gaming Moments II

PES 2016

The Last of Us: Left Behind

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Dear Machine

And so, the real game begins, as the time comes in which videogames no longer aspire to be movies, but are actually trying to pass for real life, since there are various rather interesting apps out there for all current VR devices; early attempts to make anything from roller-coasters, creepy manors, pre-historic lands, and even a space shuttle launch, everything goes. This is the kind of creative, all-over approach that's needed for VR to be a success. Now the countdown begins for the first steps, that might one day deliver a Strange Days film-like experience, in which most of our lives are spent jacked in, perhaps even like the film Surrogates.


I remember the early VR setups at the arcades, about two decades ago, which provided very basic, blocky simulation; heck, even cheesy films and tv, somehow lagged behind as to what was really possible to do in a virtual world. But deep inside, many a game designer, as well at the public, were expecting the multitude of options, as well as software, given the financial support behind the current VR endeavor. Whereas Sony VR is focusing on games, we must consider as well, the sheer size of adult entertainment, reason for which, the VR devices running on the PC, like Oculus Rift, are likely to offer not just games, but perhaps even sensual experiences.

This could well represent a landmark in gaming, considering casual gamers may then adopt VR, the way they did with the Nintendo Wii. Remember Kinect and the inability to introduce a new peripheral; well, this generation is pushing even stronger and from different fronts to make VR devices ubiquitous. It must be noted that Nintendo's previous console, the Wii, paved the way for casual gamers to participate often in party games, yet with a particularly interesting peripheral, the Wii Remote.


Philosopher David Pearce has made a convincing case for the abolition of suffering through hedonism, whose ideas on trans-humanism at a certain point intersect with VR. Pearce is a vegan who promotes "paradise engineering," and considers his work to include "pharmacology, biopsychiatry, and quantum mechanics." It would seem the cards are being shuffled in a way that may result in fringe scientific concepts such as the long debated Technological Singularity gain momentum, which of course, deals with the evolution of the machines that inhabit our lives. Many writings show how complex man-machine relationships can be in the not too distant future, they help us envision possible scenarios.

Medicine could benefit as well; created for clinical purposes, in various fields within medicine, MedVR is advancing steadily. Robotic surgery, after all, has proven to be somewhat successful. It is in training that VR shines in medicine, for it allows the students to acquire knowledge from a computer setup. Soldiers have been made to relive their time at war with VR also to heal. As well, there is VR used for architectural purposes. Laurentian University, Canada, a place well known for their mind experiments, has a program for their researchers to continue work and initiate new research with the objective of evaluating the impact of virtual reality and simulation training.


These ideas tie into the Anthropocene, a term seemingly coined by the ex-Soviets; from anthropo, for "man," and cene, which means "new" due to the impact mankind has had on its environment. Chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen popularized it in decades ago. It is nothing more and nothing less than guided evolution, since these days, more wondrous inventions are firstly created by humanity, but afterwards they acquire a more dynamic role, and they may actually change our own existence. Photo by me (2016), and from Strange Days (1995) Surrogates (2009).

Monday, February 15, 2016

Memorable Gaming Moments I

Star Wars: Battlefront

The Last of Us: Remastered

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Back in the Saddle Again

The griffin; I mean eagle, has landed, with the arrival of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, perhaps the first game which is in every possible way, a Gen 8 offer. The game's scope is also fantastic, thirty times larger than The Witcher 2, and also with a geography reportedly larger than that of Skyrim. The truth is that our hero, Geralt of Rivia, with his warrior-like demeanor and raspy voice, has made for a memorable gaming trilogy, each game with carefully crafted elements, and often also a reflection of Slavic folklore.


In a market inundated with remasters, which only improve the definition of games slightly, original Intellectual Properties are sorely needed. The Witcher 3 doesn't disappoint; this is very much a story of outsiders, class warfare, engulfing various other sociological aspects. Likewise, I'm happy to report, this time around, the story is more human and less political, with the introduction of Ciri, Geralt's apprentice, and even a love triangle; for the world of The Witcher is also one of adult relations.

As with the X-Men films, Witchers are seen both in either good or bad light depending on whom you ask, and it's also somewhat similar to the Spartan education; their training is more than many can take. Truthfully, the Civil Rights movement in the US, and other cases of segregation in history, provide a template, hence many books and movies play with this love-hate relationships regarding minorities. Of course, you sort of feel sorry for whomever wants to confront Geralt; the main character himself has evolved, you can even have him grow a beard, which as a detail, can later be trimmed.


The Witchers also have a code, and know when to back off from conflict. They are in short, as the promotional materials in fact say, not heroes, but professionals. The inclusion of Geralt's horse, Roach, is a welcome addition; after all, in Dragon Age: Inquisition, finding an animal to travel long distances, was really rather difficult. The  dialogues are particularly good. And, considering this and much more, the countless GOTY awards The Witcher 3 has amassed is impressive but hardly a surprise.

The gameplay is magnificent, solid, the combat flows, and the rpg elements are more than satisfactory. In fact, it's easy to be mesmerized by this medieval world, hence this is not just a game, but an experience. The missions all have internal logic, it's not just fetch this or that, but they seem meaningful. The weather effects are magnificent, it truly fools the mind in thinking you are there; the sun through the trees, the rain or snow, are all presented with a deft hand.


In the end, while reviewing a Witcher game, it dawns on you, that each of them is a marvel of design and story-telling, every one of them was made with great dedication, and I humbly salute CD Projekt for this; like a good painting, the game conveys a state of mind, perhaps even feelings. The standard edition comes packed with goodies; such as a map of the area, a soundtrack, and neat Witcher stickers. While it may be too large for its own good, medieval fantasy never played and looked this good.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

It's a Grunge Thing

Even if there is a new main character at the center of the recent Infamous: Second Son, I nonetheless ended up liking the novel focus the developers had adopted. For, if Cole MacGrath, from the previous games, was Batman, then Delsin Rowe surely is Spiderman, and both of these concepts are fine with this writer. As well, the game does a lot to differentiate itself from its predecessors, with outstanding firey and neon-like visuals. And in which other game can the player shake the controller to spray-paint humorous stencils; perhaps only somewhat similar to Jet Set Radio and Marc Ecko's Getting Up.


In various arguments among individuals, there are euphemisms used to name a group's adversary. In science we find the so-called "evo-psychos," or evolutionary psychologists, and in religion we encounter "fundies," or creationists. And so, Infamous: Second Son, presents the struggle of supposed "bioterrorists," also known as conduits. The underlying themes allow for an excellent game, a continuation of the previous titles, and is a Sucker Punch game after all; these devs have an impressive track record. A militarized Seattle is now the city in which our hero roams, yet it must be said the fictional cities of the previous games were for some reason, more remarkable.

Being a next-gen game, the city depicted is very much alive, with various details; it reminds me of another new game, Gravity Rush 2, plus on the other hand, the upcoming plan to roll out Sony's VR technology, perhaps for enthralling games like these, allowing for the ultimate in game immersion.* In fact, as I mentioned elsewhere, a journey inward of evolutionary "fitness-faking narcissism," has previously been elegantly suggested by Geoffrey Miller, who states that in fact, advanced alien civilizations have not made contact since they might have developed VR worlds rather than space travel. If you've noticed this blog's logo, it is a holo-band, a fictitious VR device; as they say, may you live in interesting times.


The "famous" or "infamous" paths you can follow, are really a basic addition, like in previous entries, they just offer yet another simplified aspect; though it must be said, unless you count the clever twist at the ending of Infamous 2, these don't serve much purpose, as large part of the game is a constant fight against the policemen du-jour, the Department of Unified Protection, who are also conduits, and it provides insight about our life itself, in that why wouldn't everyone work together, if they are so similar. I get the impression the engine would have run well on the previous Gen, though there are certain details, namely the powers and weather effects, that look particularly stupendous.

As far as the main character, he seems influenced in style and clothing, by Seattle's own music scene, Grunge music, which was quite popular in the nineties; it is also the land of Starbucks, and coffee shops do indeed appear in the game plus a "hooverville" can be found. As mentioned above, the character is younger, and more of a thrill seeker, discovering his powers grants him a new life; he is feared by the populace, but also stronger indeed. Gameplay revolves around recharging our heroes' abilities with smoke; that is cars on fire or chimneys, neon signs, just to name a few, whereas in previous games, it was about electricity. The gameplay remains similar, though now the powers seem more flashy, in hindsight.


There is some degree of DLC, such as the day-one, called Paper Trail, but most importantly, the expansion First Light, featuring the story of neon-powered girl Fetch, which  seems like much fun. The controller also plays a part, vibrating, but also emitting sounds. It is certainly a winning formula, since the next Gen has been out for a while, yet few games make an impression like this one does. *After all, the original Infamous games had Move peripheral support.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Digital Horizons


Reluctantly crouched at the starting line, Engines pumping and thumping in time, The green light flashes, the flags go up, Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup. (updated)