A Couple Skyrim Subplots I Created Jointly With Bethesda

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Skyrim: providing a limited -- yet intriguing -- chance for player creation of odd subplots.

I know there's been a lot of talk here recently about both Skyrim and storytelling in games. And it's not my intention to beat a dead horse.

(Though I'm getting used to horse carnage. If you play Skyrim like I do, there is a lot of equine collateral damage. I treat my horse like it is a mountain goat and can hop from cliff to cliff with ease, which is not always the case.)

Thing is, Skyrim ranked ninth in Joystick Division's recent best-of list on game narratives of 2011. The reason cited for its inclusion on the list wasn't that its main quest was more inventive, compelling or fresh than other games, but that given the breadth of choice that the player is afforded concerning his or her adventures as Dovahkiin, there are myriad routes the story can take in any given play-through.

Since getting the game from a friend, I've been diving into it every chance I get. And, to be sure, I'm excited by the possibilities of Skyrim. But do my actions really interact with Bethesda's meticulously detailed world in such a way that actual, identifiable subplots are created?

Following are a couple subplots that have emerged through my thirty hours of gameplay thus far -- subplots that I've created as much as the game has. Sometimes these are created more by the programming and sometimes they're made more by my imagination based on subtle hints from the game. But they were both delightful little reminders of the continuing advancement of open-world games and also the human ability to cobble together a story out of even loosely connected elements. Here they are (mild spoilers ahead):

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Dragon's Dogma Comes With Resident Evil 6 Demo

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 10:00 am


Well, folks, it looks like we won't have to wait until November to give that Resident Evil 6 game a spin. As a matter of fact, we won't even have to wait half that long.

According to Capcom, the upcoming fantasy-RPG, Dragon's Dogma, will give gamers access to a code that unlocks the Resident Evil 6 demo. If gamers buy it on the Xbox 360, they will receive the demo access on July 3, 2012. If they purchase Dragon's Dogma on the PlayStation 3, they will be able to download the demo September 4. Either way, Dragons's Dogma = early Resident Evil 6.

But, wait... there's more! The trailer above is for Dragon's Dogma. Take a peek at it. Because while playing a demo is great and all, it's way better to buy a game because you actually want to play that game. You know, instead of just peripheral content.

Fake Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker Sequel Trailer Waxes Nostalgic

Monday, January 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm

In all likelihood, there will never be an actual sequel to the GameCube's awesome Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. But, in a small one-minute clip, we can see what we could get excited for. And long for. And cry for because we won't see it in reality.

This is a trailer for Legend of Zelda: The Last Oracle. It was created by canuck Joel Furtado, and is 100% original animation. Tell me, tell me, that doesn't look beautiful. I know about 5 million people who would buy that game, including me, James K. Hawkins.


'Puddle' is Wibbly-Wobbly Fun

Monday, January 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm


Did you ever do those experiments in high school chemistry where you lit the Bunsen burner, and then used an eyedropper to see how many drops of water it would take to extinguish the flame before the teacher caught you goofing off? Or, better yet, college chemistry class, where things exploded if you dropped the wrong type of liquid on them? It might end in serious consequences, but the point is, you proved that liquid is not a state of matter to be messed with.

This brings me to 'Puddle', a new game for Xbox Live Arcade. Simplistic controls and challenging physics platform puzzles makes this is good game to play in small doses. The controls are the left and right triggers, used to tilt your screen in either of those directions, as you guide the liquid of the level through varying environments, all with their own challenges to the type of liquid. It's very basic, yes, but it is fun once you get into the flow (sorry) of the game.

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Trapped in the Plot Hole, Case File #2: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

Monday, January 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm


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Bad video game writing has been with us since the medium's inception, and will likely always be with us, but sometimes, a game features a bad plot turn so heinous, so irritating, so "Were-they-even-paying-attention"-ny, They must be pointed out. For if not, we'll forever be... Trapped... in the Plot Hole.

Like quite a few gamers in 2010, I had a lot of fun with Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction. The troubled production had been rescued from extinction and the gameplay revamped and streamlined for an easier, but less frustrating and more rewarding experience in the long running stealth action series. I dug the way the game would set Sam Fisher up in situation and left it to the player to figure out his exact path for taking out everyone in the room. However, as the game progressed and the story arc solidified, I began to grow antsy with the game's increasingly repetitive nature, and the spell it had cast on me was absolutely shattered by the game's final act.


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Stories In Video Games: Yea or Nay?

Monday, January 30, 2012 at 11:00 am


Stories are a huge part of my life. I have worked with books for a little over ten years now, selling and reading them, and it continuously amazes me when I have the privilege of seeing the finished hardcopy of a novel. Living in a town filled with writers can lead to interesting conversations, encounters, and great recommendations. Stories are never far from my mind.

The topic of stories has been brought up a few times in the past week. There was the countdown of the best narratives of 2011, and another piece on why Bioware tells the best stories. Stories are becoming an ever-important part of video games, something as critical as how the game looks, sounds, and plays. I admit that good stories are what brought me into video games, but at the same time, I can't help thinking that stories might also be pushing some people away from gaming as a hobby.

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Xbox 720 Rumors and Speculation

Friday, January 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm
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​Hey there. The console wars are beginning to heat up again. Numbers are flying as to just how more powerful the Wii U is compared to the Xbox 360 and just how mush stronger the processors of the "Xbox 720" will be. It's all technical mumbo jumbo that in theory translates into faster loading times, kick-ass framerates, and overall picture quality. The best part of all is that we are now being allowed a glimpse into what the new consoles can do and with that glimpse, we also get some heresay of what they can and can't do. The latest info that has been leaked online are some of the capabilities of Microsoft's next console, the Xbox 720. Here is what is being said.

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Half-Life 2 And Godspeed You! Black Emperor Are Heavenly

Friday, January 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm

 Growing up, I listened to Godspeed You! Black Emperor all the time. I always thought of them as a post-apocalyptic band -- pretty much perfectly used on the 28 Days Later... soundtrack when Jim is walking around London discovering how fucked everything has become. Great music for walking around late at night in the middle of a big city. It is a lot of dynamic variance and a lot of loose structure, oftentimes descending into beautiful, auditory chaos from a quiet few cello notes.

This video is perfect for the music. The track is called The Dead Flag Blues, and it features a great voice actor describing a ruined world over a series of Half-Life 2 visuals. This is pretty atypical of GY!BE, so listen to more if you don't dig into it right away.

Enjoy the next 5 minutes.

What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Friday, January 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm
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Hi, folks.

I can tell you, without a doubt, that I am glad this week is over. You see, I've been traveling for work, and while it's netted me some fun times, the fact of the matter is that I am not home. Home is a tough thing when you stray from it, and when you can't go back to it.

Plus, my Xbox is at home, which means it has been collecting dust for a week now. I'll be back Saturday, and I can tell you now -- watch out Trine 2, I'm going to play the crap out of you. Unless of course, Gears of War 3 gets to me first.

Because I have to review Trine 2, I will give it my all, as much as I can humanly stand. I got a review copy and have gotten behind on my reviewing. So watch for that, would you? And answer my question:

What are you playing this weekend? Any recommendations?

Why Do We Love Bad Games?

Friday, January 27, 2012 at 11:00 am
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If you haven't read my review of Amy just yet, allow me to summarize: It is a poorly constructed, buggy mess. Tasked with giving the game a fair and balanced assessment, I simply could not overlook the multitude of problems that arose both technically and from a design standpoint.

That being said, there is still a dark, masochistic corner of my heart where a morbid sort of affection burns dully for Amy. While I would never recommend someone fork over their hard-earned cash for the game in its current state, a part of me is willing to admit that I kind of liked various bits and pieces.

But some of the gaming community has taken that bizarre fondness a step further. A quick search of the Gamefaqs message boards yields dozens of posts wherein the authors profess their love for Amy and recommended their fellow survival horror fans ignore the reviews and go download it immediately.

Those people are daft.

Then again, maybe it's wrong of me to fault someone for loving terrible things. I'm guilty of this myself from time to time. (I quite liked the Bionic Commando reboot, for instance. Yeah, I said it.) This makes me wonder what, exactly, makes someone cling to such a monstrosity. No matter how bad a game is, there's always someone willing to stand up and defend it.

In this week's Infinite Ammo, I ponder some of the possible reasons for this contrarian behavior.

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