Previously Posted on ModDB: http://www.moddb.com/members/paradigmthefallen/blogs

I’m proud to officially announce Dead Space: Denial of Self. Dead Space is one of my favorite franchises, and the concept of writing a story in its universe has always had a strong appeal. Originally I was thinking of doing something with Ellie from Dead Space 2, but I’ve instead favored a new protagonist and cast of characters, even if it’s in the same setting. Also this is an ongoing story that I am writing, so that means there may be some larger gaps between postings due to the fact that I don’t have the story finished yet. I will still keep posting on a weekly/bi-weekly basis, but the story itself will not always be the subject of the posts. And without further delay:

You curse as the RIG heads up display tells you another idiot is causing trouble somewhere in the lower levels. This has been going on for days, and it’s damn well getting ridiculous. Ever since the Director started that project in government sector, things have been more out of hand than a three-year old with a loaded pistol. That’s what happens when you took half of the security force for “special duties” and didn’t hire any replacements. Hell there’d even been a few layoffs to cut the costs thanks to the damn project.

The Concourse is sprawling with people, and to them you’re nothing more than a faceless suit of armor. They’d sooner hand you their garbage than give a fuck. And the overhead lights are getting so bright that you fight to close your eyes.

You check the time, and it’s still four hours until the shift is over. The crowds seem to be getting even thicker now, a big group coming from the medical levels. While you sigh, you realize something’s off.

Most of the people coming are hurried, and they don’t look like exiting visitors. They’re doctors, nurses, and even a few security personnel. You can see the blood on one security officer. He walks up, his RIG identifying him as #4-2795. The level of armor on his suit is recognizable, even through the blood splatter. So is his broken seeker rifle; its front half torn clean off.

“What’s going on?” you ask.

“Operation Endgame is in effect,” 4-2795 responds.

You know that means something bad is happening. You’re just a Concourse guard, so you don’t get to know all the fancy secrets and inside bits – but you’ve heard of Endgame. The evacuations will be starting any second.

And like clockwork, the Director is talking on the screens. Stores begin to usher their customers out, and you can see the doors to the Medical Deck are locking down.

“What exactly is the situation back there?” you ask.

“Hell. Bloody Hell. That’s what it is. We’re heading to Residential. They should be locked out from Medical deck, and we can get the civies out in time. Once that’s done, we get our asses over to the government sector. The Director’s got everyone moving triple time,” 4-2795 responds, gesturing for you to follow his squad. He’s got three solid armored soldiers with him.

You’ve been crowd control before, but trying to get through the flood of people is almost suffocating. Like a herd of cattle, they meander and cry out in confusion. Barely any of them even seemed to hear the Director talking overhead.

Normally you’d be watching for someone getting trampled or pickpockets taking a lucky gamble, but 4-2795 wasn’t kidding. He just shoves his way through, even smacking someone across the face as he moves towards the lift to residential.

You get inside, and fight off your nerves as the lift rises upwards to residential. All that’s around you is metal walls as the lift drones its motors. You breathe in quietly, and turn to 4-2795.

“What are we walking into here?” you ask, trying to get your mind off of the walls that seem to be coming closer around you.

“Altman forbid… you’ll be seeing things that nearly made me barf in my RIG. Hopefully the emergency locks are working.” he says, taking out a pulse rifle. He rips out the remaining clip from his Seeker then stuffs it into his RIG pack.

The doors open, and the air returns to your lungs. You step out into the carpeted hall, but you don’t see any movement. The overhead lights are working, and nothing’s out of place.

“Why aren’t people moving? This district should be crazier than upstairs,” you mutter, glancing about.

You knock on a door, but you barely hear anything. You enter in an override code, and open the apartment. A hand reaches out, and you nearly pull the trigger of your rifle as you see it’s just a woman. She’s wide-eyed and pale.

“Why are you hiding. There’s a station wide alert in effect,” you say, looking at her closely.

She doesn’t even look at you, she’s still staring out the door. Then suddenly her teeth clench and she looks at you.

“They took her! They took my baby!” she screams in your face, and she runs past you.

“Do we-” one of the other guys asks.

“Let her go. If someone really stole a kid from her, then the looters are already down here and we’ve got to shoot them on sight…” 4-2795 says, stepping forward to take the lead.

Further down the halls, and you’re still seeing no sign of life. Every time you open a door, you hope you see someone, but then there’s nobody. It’s liked waiting for a bad joke to just finally finish. Except it just keeps making that bad taste in your mouth get worse.

“Call in the Government Sector. It looks like everyone’s already pulled out here – everyone who’s sane, anyway,” you say, turning to 4-2795.

“I just tried. The comm feed is apparently too packed as is. I’m beginning to think we’re in the eye of the storm…” one of 4-2795’s men says.

“Or they just got out in an orderly manner and the medical deck lockdown held. Whatever was over there, it’s stuck now. All they need to do is vent the oxygen, and this will all clear over, nice and clean,” 4-2795 says, trying to convince himself as much as you. But he knows just as well as you that people aren’t that quick thinking.

“I say we head to the next residential juncture. Staff quarters will be next. If there isn’t anybody there, then I’ve got to recommend we head back to the concourse, sir,” the soldier from a minute ago says, shouldering his rifle.

“Alright. Everyone get moving. I’ll give the all clear for this sector,” 4-2795 says, pointing down a hall for us to head down.

You start walking down the hall, but one of the soldiers keeps muttering to himself. Suddenly then alarms begin to go off.

“What the hell was that?” you ask.

“Someone just cut power to the bulkhead seals! Someone get command on the comm now!” 4-2795 yells, raising his weapon as the overhead lights turn to red. “Someone already broke down a few conduit panels in Medical. At first we thought it was the things that appeared that were causing it, just random damage from people trying to fight them off, but this is too direct.”

“What’s the plan sir?” a soldier asks warily.

“Government sector will be locking down now and those things will be coming too quick for us to cut them off at the staff quarters… Just give me a minute to think,” 4-2795 says, raising his rig map. “Someone take point, we’re officially in hot water and I’d prefer we not get into the frying pan.”

“My motion tracker’s picking movement up from upper levels. It’s not the crowds sir-” one soldier starts to say.

“I can see it on mine as well. Just let me…” 4-2795 says, pausing then turning his head slightly. He shakes his head for a moment and finally picks a path on the RIG map. “We’ll head through the mines, it’s the quickest way to Earth Gov and they’ll still be evacuating people down there. Those things are still mostly in Medical, so we should be just ahead of them. We can catch one of the last transports. Sync your RIGs people, we need to move now.”

4-2795 starts pressing forward, and you start wishing you had a motion tracker like the rest of his squad. At least you’ve got emergency Stasis, for what it’s worth.

As you reach the next lift, he hits the command panel for the lift to rise. There’s a grinding noise, and then the cables break in the center of the shaft. A body then falls, and you can hear it making a disgusting impact below.

“What the hell?” you say, daring to look up. As you do, something splats on your RIG.

As you fight to get it off, you hear the beeping of someone using the command terminal.

“Sir, what are you doing?” a soldier asks.

“I’m turning off the gravity for this sector of the district. We’ll walk up to the mining tram station. It’s only two floors up, not far,” 4-2795 says as you finally get the muck off your face.

You toss the gunk down the shaft. Your RIG automatically makes a magnetic lock on the floor, as does everyone else. 4-2795 is the first to head out into the shaft, pointing the flashlight on his gun to make sure there were no other inbound objects. As he gives you the thumbs up, you and one of the soldiers jump over to the wall opposite 4-2795.

The other two soldiers jump out and form up behind 4-2795. As you all head up, you notice some static coming over the comm.

“Is anyone else getting interference?” you ask.

“I am too. Sounds like it might be a civilian channel trying to break through the airwaves. I’m going to see if I can ping where it’s coming from…” the soldier next to you says.

“Sir, it’s from the CEC facility in the mines!”

He quickly sets his RIG speakers to play the message.

All teams, this is Kaleb, Xenogeologist from Langford Shift 1! There’s something in the facility, we’ve lost 3 of our crew and can’t contact Shift 4!”
“Here comes the transport, everybody get ready in case there’s more.”

We’re abandoning our shift and heading back up. Everyone else is ordered to do the same.”

Kaleb, it’s more of them! Shoot them! SHOOT THEM!”

“Hold it, I’ve got another coming in-”

This is Sorenson, Shift 2! Kaleb, what’s going on?! Dead bodies are chasing us! Dead bodies I recognize! It’s fucking shift 4!”

Just get out of there Sorenson, get out of there!”

But we’re trapped, they’re closing in all around, which way did you go? Which way is clear?”

Use the starboard catwalks, we cleared a path, but hurry, they’re closing in behind!”

We’ll try, wait for us!”

By that point, everyone has stopped moving. The CEC refinery is one of only two possible ways of getting into the mines. The only other way would be from government sector tram station.

“What are we supposed to do sir?” one of the soldiers asks.

4-2795 is silent, turning to look at you all.

“We’re fucked. If those things are already at the mines… then we’ve no chance of making it out. We’re out flanked and outnumbered. We barely made it out of Medical with the lockdown seals helping cover our backs. Our only luck would be if there’s a transport still docked for evacuation, and I’m doubting they’re still waiting around by this point,” he resignedly says, closing his RIG map.

“There’s gotta be something-” you start to say, then another message comes over the comm.

Audio Log, RIG number 438642. These could be my last words. The monsters are loose, I couldn’t stop them. And now the reactor core is overheating – which will destroy the entire Sprawl if I can’t fix it! So… I hope someone hears this. It means I did that much right, at least.”

“The reactor core? That’s just a few levels below. Why didn’t command give any orders-” someone starts to say.

“We’ll head there then. If the core blows now it’ll kill everyone near the station. Might as well do something useful before we’re all killed,” 4-2795 says, resetting his destination on the RIG map, then proceeding down the shaft with everyone following.

Suicide mission… now you know you shouldn’t have gotten out of bed today.


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Protest SOPA and PIPA

January 18, 2012

The guys over at ModDB have a better video for explaining then what I could say on my own:

http://www.moddb.com/news/sopa-and-pipa-our-internet-freedom

This legislation needs to be stopped, and the outcry against it must get stronger and stronger. What does it say when media producers themselves (including Mojang, EPIC Games, and Bungie) are even openly and violently against this? It says the people pushing this law have no idea what they are talking about, and are living in a fever dream. The only positive (and highly ironic) thing that’s come out of SOPA and PIPA is that political parties are finally doing something bipartisan (both those who are pro and against these new laws come from the Republican and Democrat parties).

As for me myself? If this legislation goes through, I’ll be very strongly tempted to do all I can to help people defy it. Anyone with good intuition knows that hackers and those persistent enough will essentially produce a Gray and a Black internet. These will be outside of -any- legislation and won’t be able to be stopped at all by law enforcement. Frankly speaking, companies are using the same logic as Donut uses here, from 1:20  to 1:46 http://roosterteeth.com/archive/?id=246&v=more&s=5

And that’s all for this topic (if you want to know more about SOPA and/or PIPA, I suggest you use the search engines while they are still free to link you to whatever they can find).

XCOM as the new 2K shooter is delayed, many of the older fans are pleased to see a new Turn-Based reboot of the main games, yet few seem to show a great deal of concern at the shooter’s fate. While acknowledgements can be given considering the fact that the last time X-Com became a shooter, it was a mindless game that most fan’s hated, the new game actually looks to be almost like a hybrid between Insomniac Game’s Resistance series and Gearbox’s Brothers in Arms, with a progression and choice system like out of a Bioshock game. The weapons look like a decent mix of the familiar and the distant, the control of your squad looks smooth and efficient based on one preview that Game Informer had. The art style isn’t cliche, and has a very nice “Pixar” feel to it in that it dodges the issues of the uncanny valley. The game will even let you have freedom in how you progress with most missions similar to how Mass Effect generally only made you have to recruit 3/4s of your team and only required about two to three loyalty missions completed to go through the Omega Four Relay.

Despite this, there’s not been much praise for the game. When the game was first presented, the criticism and skepticism were understandable, but they’ve clearly gotten a handle on this and the game will likely end up being at least worth an 7.75/10 (in the language of the Hate out of Ten-ers, it’ll be 8.95/10). ( http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/4966-Hate-Out-Of-Ten for those of you who’d like clarification on what I mean).

So please, cut the devs at 2K Marin a break and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Nit requested to add his own little bit to this:

I will find a way to critcize you. Have no fear.

If there’s someone who needs a vocal enough community that it effects the very development of a game, it’s Ubisoft. Think you can make me link my copy of Brotherhood to Uplay, don’t ya Ubisoft? You thought wrong! Which for you is like breathing. Don’t think I’ve been ignoring you, we’ll have a nice long chat about your DRM in the days to come…

Sandbox Games

January 5, 2012

I will find a way to critcize you. Have no fear.

Hello readers, death-threat writers, and people who randomly got here by trying to Google something else entirely. Today, we shall be crit-I mean ‘talking’ about sandbox games.

First, lets be clear on what a sandbox game is. Well, it’s clearly not a game actually set in a sandbox (although that would be a good idea for a game). It is a game in which, generally speaking, you are free to do whatever you wish wherever you wish within the bounds of the game. Sounds really free-form and open, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately, a true sandbox game (and there have been a few made) usually -only- focus on the general choices, never have a story, and are more or less as niche-centric as a low-level comic book publisher. Others throw away concepts of open-ended factions and choice in favor of more controlled action and keeping it interesting, this can result in a few flavors:

Vanilla — Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption are both good examples of this. They aim for a semi-realistic, almost action-grit style sandbox. In the latest GTA games, you can even do things like go down to comedy clubs, play darts and pool; and even watch TV shows that are exclusively in-game. The problem is, their narratives are as linear as can be, and rarely is there a moral compass for the player’s story outside of how the NPCS (computer generated people populating the world) around the player react when he appears. So you can be a mass-murdering lunatic or a Christian-robin hood style character, but the main plot characters won’t give a crap either way.

Chocolate — Fallout and Elder Scrolls fall more or less into this category. They try to be the best of both worlds. Now I’ve already spoken before about how the present Elder Scrolls games handle it, but from what I hear, Fallout actually does a decent job of conveying story, choice, faction relations, and even makes it possible for the player to complete the game without killing a single person (also, it’s latest iteration, Fallout: New Vegas, has more ending variations than almost any RPG — about 59-65, if I remember correctly)

Strawberry — Dragon Age, and arguably Deus Ex: Human Revolution fall into this category, although not entirely. The first game is from Bioware, who prefers branching narrative and a focus on making the player feel important and involved in the story. Deus Ex: Human Revolution does this, but not as much to the extent of a Bioware game. It’s just as willing to let you sit back, ignore the story for a little while and just hunt around in the sewers or amongst the cities to find something to do.

That One Flavor You Cannot Discern — Japanese Role Playing Games, they could be applied here, but I’m just saying now that they won’t be. They are almost always entirely linear affairs, outside of a few (and I mean it when I saw FEW) series. We’ll devote another post to this topic at a later date.

Rocky Road — Red Faction: Guerilla, Just Cause 2 and Saints Row are those type of sandbox game that wants to be like Red Dead Redemption and GTA, but really aren’t. In Red Faction’s case, it is a semi-open world game plagued with a bipolar focus that rarely actually makes its key talent be the center piece. In Saints Row’s case, it finally gives up trying to emulate after the first game, made a very popular (and violent) sequel. We will also be doing an analysis of Red Faction: Guerilla (perhaps today, depending on how long this lectu-erm, ‘post’ takes). Just Cause 2 is essentially an unintentional hybrid of Saints Row and Red Faction: Guerilla.

*breathes in briefly* Now that we’ve covered the general sand-boxy games, the problems with them:

Realism is always an issue, and as I’ve experienced, the only games to ever handle realism well have been Red Dead Redemption and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Why? Because they do it -within the context of their fiction-. GTA can’t decide if its the Sopranos or is Better Off Ted. Also, to lightly prod a dead horse, Skyrim’s AI, dialogue, faction handling, and quest decisions are rather often break immersion due to their unrealistic behavior (I killed just one chicken, that’s all. If everyone got wanted for that, McDonalds would be an illegal crime syndicate).

Spreading itself too thin. No game is a better example on this list than Red Faction: Guerilla of how to not compliment your best feature. It’s main mechanics is it’s very well done destruction engine that lets you destroy whole buildings with just a hammer or with a dozen explosives. Despite this it also has sniping missions, interior-combat missions, horrible driving-centric missions, duck-and-cover missions, and stealth missions. Why? Because apparently Volition thinks that despite the fact you can clean most of the EDF out of an area in about 2-3 hours, you need a bunch of additional things that would make sense if you weren’t making a game that centers on running in, blowing things up, and then running back out. Seriously, why am I defending a random hill from 5 enemy tanks with no cover when I could be destroying that giant mineral processing plant two miles away? I can see it from here Volition, don’t tell me it’s a mirage. This isn’t the first time a game’s tried to be something its not in order to try and increase it’s marketability, but it is especially clear and sloppy in this game.

This one will seem a bit odd a point and even more ironically Red Faction: Guerilla is one of the best examples of succeeding against this issue: Making a playable demo for a sandbox game. Now, how did Red Faction succeed where GTA, RDR, Human Revolution, Saints Row and so many others have failed? It used common sense. It’s demo lets you play one of its best missions (arguably the best one in the entire game), and it limits you to have 10 minutes to do whatever you want in the demo (and after playing it about 3 times, you’ll figure out how to destroy most of if not all of the buildings in that time). Another good example is the game Just Cause 2. Now it doesn’t restrict you to one mission (there’s about technically 3-5 you can do in the course of the demo), but it does still give you a limited area to explore and a 30 minute limit on playtime before you have to restart. It seems to be a simple formula, yes? Tell that to your favorite sandbox developers, because so far most of them seem oblivious to the benefit a demo could do for their games.

Now I realize I haven’t covered every sandbox type and every game, but this gives you a general idea. I’ll end this on a more positive note by pointing you to some decent sandbox games that avoid most of the faults mentioned.

inFAMOUS — PS3 exclusive sandbox game centering around being either the ultimate super hero or super villain. In the first game, your powers are exclusively electric, but in the sequel you can get flame or ice abilities. If you like the demo but don’t want to sink $30-60 dollars into a game, get the Festival of Blood standalone DLC from the playstation network, which will only set you back $10 and includes the custom-mission maker that inFAMOUS 2 has. And yes, they let you make your own missions in inFAMOUS 2. If that and a power fantasy don’t have you sold, I don’t know what will.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution — I could spend an entire post listing how good this game is. Yes, it may feel short, because the primary locations are often reused, and the developer has even admitted two other visitable locales were cut due to time constraints. The game’s difficulties are far better in explaining themselves than the basic easy-medium-hard, and the game is very approachable if you’re willing to dig in and think with more than trigger reflexes.

Just Cause 2 — This is not a game for narrative lovers or people who want moral focus. This is a game for people who like to see stuff blown up sky high while the protagonist hang glide-kicks the antagonist off of an airship hotel as they plow 20 bullets into the nearest mercenary opponents. It doesn’t have the destruction of buildings like in Red Faction, but it compensates it with satisfying combat, hillariously corny voice-overs, and a far more forgiving physics engine than the first Just Cause game.

Honesty

January 5, 2012

Honesty. We all say we want it, that we need it, that we couldn’t live without it.

The reality, genuine honesty could kill us. Think about it. Pick anyone from your life, and have them tell you everything they do for an entire week. If there isn’t at least one thing you don’t like that they do, you are either you are a saint or you are not being honest to yourself.

We lie to ourselves, and other people, daily. We claim that everything is public now, with Facebook, Twitter, etc. — but it really still isn’t, we just put out fluff, things we’d know anyway if we knew the person in real life, and additional lies made in more creative ways.

My closest friends still don’t know things about me that I keep hidden, I won’t claim I’m somehow above the dishonesty. However, I intend to point to how much we hate honesty.

When something in the media is honest, it either is praised and then the point is glazed over, or it is shunned and an excuse is given for its being taken from the spotlight. A good example is the success of The Help whilst Larry Crowne did not garner nearly as much success. Think of Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone, where he could only point to social and political mistakes via abstract allusions. How in the 60s, most newspapers used naked “free-love” girls as their moniker for what the Hippies were. None of these are by mistake — it’s far easier to look at something as foreign than as something we have to live with.

Another example:
I could probably come up with a story based around the issues of the ideology and/or doctorine of _insert group, faction, or association_ , make it a foreign story, and there’d be no problem. If I instead made it a near-future or present day story, _insert pro-group, faction, or association_ would be on the scene panning it as partisan.

Imagine a world now where everything is plain as day. You know everything about any person the second you meet them. You’re going to have a relatively small circle of people you’ll actually speak to, won’t you? Unless you are insurmountably patient, you wouldn’t be able to be with someone else.

So, by now we reach the point of conclusion — neither absolute is good, and it’s a lie to say either is good. To never be honest is to silence your own inner-self, and to be fully honest is alienating. However, we must keep in perspective what needs to be said and what doesn’t. If you’re honest about how often you brush your teeth but lie about infidelity, then you are missing the picture entirely. Besides, who cares how many times you’ve brushed your teeth?

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