Posts Tagged ‘Bethesda’

This is far from a new game — but I don’t care. A lot has been said outlining the positive aspects of this game, so I’ll spare you the fanboi drool. Instead, I’ll go a different way.
Old though it is (by internet standards), Skyrim is still an oft-talked about title, and watching my lover play it today, I simply could not delay this rant any longer.

1238710_624138890970753_1955178382_n
“Lets dumb it down to appeal to a dumber audience!” – Bethesda

Skyrim is so pretty. And so fucking lame.
Back in my day“, you could wear cloths under your armor and a cloak on top of that.
Instead of one ring, you could wear a ring for every thumb you proudly owned.
Skirts did not automatically transform into pants simply because you were playing a male, and women were allowed to wear pants.
Weapons could actually get worn down by careless use.
Legendary items could be sold for the ludicrous amounts one would expect.
Spells could be creatively customized.
Fast-travel was considered too unrealistic and as such not allowed unless you hired transportation.
Invisible walls were unheard of.
Enemies did not level with you, so you knew better than to rumble with the big dogs on day 1.
If you wanted to, you could permanently kill quest-critical characters (even gods!) thereby actually breaking free of the conventional restraints of the game.
There were no throw-away NPCs with a single line of dialogue — everyone had a story.
You could create spells to fucking FLY!

Then I played Fallout: New Vegas, another Bethesda game, and my desire for immersion was truly realized.
You had to eat!
You had to sleep!
You had to hydrate!
In other words, those countless items of food actually MEANT SOMETHING.

But then Skyrim happened and failed to adopt any of these (for me) vital features that had been built up over the years.
In other words, I see Skyrim as the opposite of innovative progress.

Skyrim is very pretty. It has all the tools for a truly flawless game hidden within its code.
And it fails to utilize them to perfection.
So close. Yet so SO far, that it damn near breaks the whole damn game for me!
I know I’m picky. And thats not a bad thing: I demand the best because I care.
Because if you aren’t “picky” about the things you have passion for, what the fuck is the point!?

Advertisements

*this has nothing to do with my usual feminist tilt*

funny-pictures-auto-mass-effect-455257
I have a problem with ending Downloadable Content (DLC) for video games. I’m not talking about the endings of DLCs. I’m not even talking about DLCs that come out after the official ending of a game and then carry on an additional story–no, I’m perfectly fine with that idea. I am talking about DLCs that require you to disregard your progress in the main plot and reload to a save before the official ending. This seems like an odd sort of thing to gripe about, doesn’t it? Well thats okay. I’m not the super rad kind of reviewer who always raves angerly (I’ve got plenty of positive articles too!) Personally, I can only think of two games that I really enjoy that do this: Mass Effect 3 by Bioware and Fallout: New Vegas by Bethesda. I actually happen to like the dlcs quite a bit, but they always feel empty at the end, because you know that none of it really mattered much. Unless you are BRAND NEW to the games, these dlcs would have been completed well after you have defeated the ‘final boss’ of each game, which is REDUNDANT. And by then your character is either dead or probably doesn’t give a shit about backstory. But instead of giving you an excuse to continue from the main quest onward, or just give you a whole different character to play with, they force you to reload to before the ending took place in order to experience PLOT CRITICAL missions and stories after the fact. WTF? Why? So many games release additional dlcs but none of them do this to you! Forcing you to go back after you finished the game instead of offering a way forward is anticlimactic as HELL!
Omega6101Mass Effect 3 was the conclusion of a legendary video game sci-fi epic that for those of us who had been crafting our custom characters since the start, were with it for 5 years. The first DLC for this game, From Ashes, was released along with the game itself. The second was a clarification of the famous Mass Effect 3 ending. But after that, they came out with (to date) two more! (not counting the multiplayer packs). Leviathan and Omega are both quite important to the overall plot of the Mass Effect universe, so when I heard they were being released, I reasonably figured (since my character was dead/undead/ascended/unplayable) I would be taking control of other characters. Maybe I would take control of members of my team, or maybe other quest-critical characters all together. This didn’t seem like such a big stretch since you do this several times when new folks come on to you team…you just level them from 1 up to whatever level you managed to reach (60). But instead, they took a page out of Fallout New Vegas (see below) and decided they would just have you reload to hours before the final fight. What? WHY? What the hell does it add except story? Nothing! You don’t see the Leviathan in the final fight! You don’t see Aria doing jack shit in the battle for Earth. Its all exposition! So why the hell would they FORCE you to backtrack like that? You don’t have to be able to travel around and talk to all the surviving characters, so its not like they had to program the aftermath very much. You could just start right up in the dlc, right? Why not? Its pretty much that anyway, except now I play as Shepard and get this empty feeling at the end of each of these (otherways great) dlcs because I know I might as well be playing a ghost and everything I just did, doesn’t really matter because the final fight would have been won whether I did this shit or not. In the Omega DLC you influence Aria T’loak through your dialogue as so many other before her. But since in my mind I’m FUCKING DEAD, why couldn’t this have been an opportunity to PLAY as Aria and influence her just the same? It would have been a hell of a lot more interesting! So instead of allowing you to take a fresh perspective and flesh out some new character and giving Commander Shepard the respect he/she deserves and letting him/her rest in peace, you are forced to reanimate a long forgotten save and zombie around! The result is a watered down sensation of otherways great additional stories.

tumblr_ltw05lhZoj1qe53sso1_500

Fallout New Vegas features 3 story-critical dlcs that were released after most folks have long since completed the main quest. The DLCs are Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, and Lonesome Road all of which are extremely important to the advancement of the main story and would feel much more at home AFTER the chaotic war in the Mohave has been resolved (with additional Gun Runner’s Arsenal weapons cache dlc…which would have been bloody useful BEFORE I fought the big end baddie!) Instead of following in the steps of its own predecessor (Fallout 3) and allowing you to carry on after the climatic battle, they force you to reload to a save that you presumably have before the Big Fight. Why? WHY? Bethesda has shown time and again that this type of shit is not a problem! At the end of Fallout 3, you die. But the subsequent dlcs find a way to bring you back so you can keep playing the multiple awesome stories that they later release. Thats PERFECT! In Fallout New Vegas, you don’t even die, but they refuse to do this. Why? Are they just lazy? Is there too much shit they have to program in after the fight? Bullshit! A few lines of dialogue saying “Good job! You helped destroy the Legion/NCR/House/etc, now on to this mysterious Next Thing!” That would have been just fine! Further, Bethesda is responsible for Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, and Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, all of which had interesting as hell dlcs released and allowed you to keep on trekking along their massive environments doing quests to your heart’s content long after the official ending. So WTF kind of excuse do you have Bethesda? Why muck up Fallout New Vegas by a single act of laziness?
Because in-spite of the awkwardness of this ‘reload’ bullshit, we still bought these (awesome) dlcs, thats why. They clumsily tacked on some amazing side-stories and we the fans ate it up then grimaced at the taste.

Addendum: A third DLC for Mass Effect 3 called Citadel has you visit with your comrades and revives some of the best experiences of the game (it still forces you to load to before the final battle but)…I don’t hate that.

*I will continue to add to this list, so tell me all about what is worthy of induction in the comments.

===================
THE OTHER SIDE’S ARGUMENT
===================

I refuse to address the bullshit, old and tired sexist rants that I have already deconstructed to their ugly cores in other articles. Further, I will not be explaining here why (how!?) I — a Dominant, Heterosexual, Slavic Male find these things reprehensible as opposed to joining my knuckle-dragging, slope-browed ‘kin’ in moronic titillation. Instead I will focus first on the ‘reasonable’ sexist.

While discussing a particularly spot on article, I quoted the author with the following excerpt:

“when games with solely male soldiers arrive in public hands, that absence becomes a form of denial that women soldiers exist. It’s disrespectful to female soldiers and the sacrifices they make alongside their male peers around the world every day.”

Which I happened to think was very astute and rolled against the illusion of ‘realism’ many of the military shooters attempt to portray. Another reason I never touched any of the Call of Duty titles.

__________Pictured: Real life combat soldiers

At this point I received a comment from an individual (male gamer and fledgling programmer) who although professing that the exploitation of women in, and marginalization of women from the art medium of games was unfortunate, was quick to assert that this was the lesser of two evils:

“do you have female soldiers be in the game and be sexualized to the point of being unrealistic, so as to keep it appealing? Or do you ignore them, leave them their dignity, and allow the game to remain a testosterone-fueled adrenaline hit? Female gamers are becoming a larger demographic, but until they get bigger it is a sad truth that good marketing demands sexualized women in games.”

I don’t know about anyone else (and I don’t care), but I personally cannot associate with a bunch of bulging steroid monstrosities any more than I can with absurd walking boob-jobs. For that matter, I do not think it is the sole job of the marginalized to do something about their predicament–whatever happened to people just giving a shit? There are at least a dozen excellent examples of compelling female heroines and games that pop immediately to mind that succeeded because of the heroines, not inspite of them. Not necessarily just the stereotypically ‘tough-chick’ soldiers but compelling characters of all types. My response is the crux of this post, albeit further extrapolated.

*Note, many of the games listed were placed here at the advice of the most hardcore gamer I know, a real-life combat war vet and modern-day hospice worker. Many thanks to her for the invaluable impute. More credit to her at the end.

===========
THE WRONG WAY
===========

__________Not pictured: Games people should have any respect for

The image immediately above are of Mortal Kombat’s Sonya Blade (a ‘special forces’ officer) and Soul Caliber’s Ivy Valentine (an immortal ‘warrior’). I won’t go into detail on my immense disappointment of the oversexualization and deplorable degradation of the character over the decades (even by Mortal Kombat and fighting games standards) of dear old Sonya because this person has kindly laid it all out for us in detail. I will however remark that though I don’t usually play fem characters myself, Ivy’s fighting style is one of the more interesting in the Soul Calibur series (a sword-whip) that requires quite a bit of getting used to execute brilliant combos (as opposed to just the hack-and-slash that usually works for other larger (male) characters). It is therefore a great shame that both of the female characters in these games are degenerating the further the two series continue. Ivy, as I said, is a warrior and so for comparison to the realm of realism (not a pervasive element in today’s modern entertainment industry), I direct you to this fantastic archive.

Unfortunately this type of shit isn’t relegated solely to the sad sad realm of fighting games (which I used to enjoy when the pixels were shabby but now want to break a window every time a ‘female’ character bounces unto the screen). In fact no genera is safe. Lets neatly avoid further delving into the male-to-female fantasy armor debacle thanks to this outstanding article so commonly found in adventure and rpg games (as a dude your armor is massive and impressive, as a fem character your armor is a metal thong). I will just note that according to female combat soldiers in countries enjoying the benefit of such gender-equality, there is no difference in their flak-jackets–in reality, everybody wears the same gear. Realism indeed.

Samus_at_the_end_of_MetroidThere are, of course, more subtle forms of sexism in games. As a single example among countless, lets take Metroid’s Samus Aran. The first game baffled gamers by having them run through the whole game as a super-powered armored mercenary and then at the end revealing the hero was a woman (of course if you beat the game SUPER fast you are ‘rewarded‘ by having the producers shit all over everything they just spent the whole game building by parading the heroine around in a mini fucking bikini in all her pixelated glory).
After that the silent heroine ran a successful franchise until the male producers tried to pump some ‘personality’ into her by completely rewriting her character arc, putting her into a skin-tight blue suit and making her a whiney, crying, baby-obsessed nutball via the ‘Other M‘ series. Talk about backpeddling progress.

===========
FEMALE GAMERS
===========

kat-gunn-wcg-ultimate-gamer

___Kat Gunn – World Cyber Games Ultimate Gamer Champion

In the 2010 WCG Ultimate Gamer competition, Ms. Gunn who goes by the tag //Mystik//, faced against 11 gaming elites (male and female) and won. I wish that was all I needed to say, but since most people are still living in the non-existant delusion that girl gamers are mostly nude models or are Fat, Ugly or Slutty, I feel compelled to continue with this woman that I have chosen as example of a real ‘gamer girl’.  Throughout the course of their trials, the competitors faced 8 weeks worth of ‘Challenges’ that ranged from cooperative gaming, to retro, to virtually every genera (games that had not been released yet as well as well-worn classics), including, but not limited to — playing a competitive racing game while having their arms restrained in a straight jackets forcing them to use their teeth, feet, etc. That is just one such example of the televised events. Through it all, Kat triumphed. Her competitors, elites just like her, were regional and national gaming champions in their own right. During the WCG Grand Finals when Mystik faced off against the remaining competitor on a stage in front of thousands of people. Kat lost the first round (Rock Band) but dominated in the second, a fighting game (BlazBlue) as well as going on an all out killing spree in the last (Halo: Reach). Along with receiving several games months before their release, Kat Gunn also took home a Grand Finalist cash prize of $100,000 as well as the immense prestige of her victory.

Not enough? How about 2013 King of the Nerds tv show winner and pro-gamer Celeste Anderson who was crowned the King of All Nerds after facing off against fellow gamers and NASA scientists alike and winning a $100,000 grand prize like Kat Gunn before her? The nerds and geeks of the world have spoken and more and more of our leaders rising up are free of the burdensome Y chromosome.

While on the subject of outstanding fem. gamers, I also recommend Felicia Day’s “The Guild“.

==========
THE RIGHT WAY
==========

1862143-wallpaper_009_femshep6_1920x1200
Welcome to Urf

For our purposes I will separate the various games that have ‘done it right’ into four categories:

1. Where the fem is the Main protagonist.

2. Stories where you can choose to be female if you want and discover entirely unique character sub-plots and voice-acting (as seen in Bioware games). These clearly take a great deal of extra effort to add the female options and yet their popularity alone would suggest it is worth the work.

3. Games where you can choose to be fem if you want but there is virtually no character development (such as Bethesda’s non-speaking heroes). I see no reason at all for these games to not include a female option.

4. And ones with squad play where fem characters are an option (usually 1 of four). There is no excuse to not be gender-blind here, especially since that is often all it takes to draw in a female audience.

Let us begin!

1. Excellent Lead Fem. Characters:
Faith

While Parkour is certainly badass, it cannot (unfortunately) help you outrun bullets

Mirror’s Edge – You play as Faith, an Asian-American traceuse who races across the rooftops trying to save her sister by non-lethally confronting the Big Brother-like government in a very enthralling and unique game-style.

Velvet Assassin – Based off of the real life soldier-hero Violette Szabo who killed many a-Nazi without any ‘sleazy spy’ tactics.

Alice: Madness Returns / American McGee’s Alice  – horror/fantasy games that explore the darker side of the human psyche.

Beyond Good and Evil – in this gaming cult classic you play as Jade as she tries to uncover a government conspiracy and save her planet from an alien threat.

Perfect Dark – play as Joanna Dark and team up with Elivs the badass little alien in this outstanding 64bit fps (I did not care for the sequel).

WET – join Ruby in this fun and funky 3rd person action adventure bloodfest.

Portal games – play this cult classic as the silent protagonist Chell, solving logic puzzles in first-person in an effort to outwit the devious sentient machine GLaDOS.

Metroid – play as Samus Aran, the kick-ass bountyhunter who puts Boba Fett to shame and on the weekends tutors Ripley on alien-killing (obviously this is a good example only before Other M and with the exception of the fucking bikini dance at the end of the first one).

Tomb Raider 2013 – Lara Croft is rebooted in the 2013 game free of the ridiculous male gaze that has plagued her in the past to embark on an Indiana Jones-styled adventure to rescue her friends and (male) mentor set to breathtaking and intense gameplay that pulls no punches.

2. Great Character Development for Any Gender:
bastila vs revan

__An intense prelude to the best glow-stick party this side of the galaxy

Knights of the Old Republic games – Play as an amnesiac turned Jedi in the first or as a Jedi Exile in the second, both games gaving a glimpse of Bioware’s fantastic future character development projects.

Mass Effect Trilogy – I have written about Bioware’s Mass Effect before so I will keep it brief: you play as Commander Shepard, a hero(ine) who’s customized choices, sexual orientation, friendships, and enemies carry over from the first game to the second to the last.

Dragon Age games – Play yet another character-driven Bioware story as the Warden in the first and then the Champion in the sequel as you work to rid the world of a terrible plague through strength, guile, or magic.

Halo Reach – if I need to describe Halo, you have either been killing braincells with copy/paste, gender-biased shooters like COD or are just not an FPS fan, either way Noble Six is the first in-game lead Halo character that allows for gender customization and is worth a play along with multiplayer on Halo 3 and Halo 4.

Fable 2 and 3 – Fable games are fun, customizable adventure titles with you as the Hero.

3. Story-driven, Non-Speaking Customizable Characters:
falloutgirl

_____________________ 100% chance she’ll cripple your ego

Fallout games – play as the Lone Wonderer or the Courier in these massive, open-world, post-apocalyptic, action-rpg games by Bethesda.

Elder Scrolls games – made extremely famous with the latest “Skyrim” (Elder Scrolls 5), these massive exploration action-rpgs are the sword/magic equivalents to Bethesda’s own Fallout series and worth a solid year’s play each (my favorite was Morrowind).

Pokemon games – become the Pokemon Champion in these highly addictive and amazingly popular grind-for-experience games (and if you don’t like them we will HM01 you)!

4. Squad-Play
E3-2011-Resident-Evil-Operation-Raccoon-City-Details-Screenshots-Videos-Available-4

Anti-heroes are too cool to look at explosions

Left 4 Dead games – Zoey and Rochelle are the respective female options for these four-man squad zombie killing games.

Resident Evil: ORC – This game is also impossible to play without at least one fem. character – Lupo, Four-Eyes, and Bertha (or at least one male character). For my full review of this game, click here.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown –  an intensive turn-based strategy game that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time through flowing cinematics and allows for randomized squadmates of various genders and nationalities.

JSRF – Jet Set Radio Future is a fun, futuristic, racing-adventure game in which you take on a corrupt government with players like Gum, Cube, Rhyth, Boogie, Jazz, Cube (and others) while listening to some outstanding Japanese hip hop.

Borderlands 1 and 2: play this repetitive, offensive, idiot-crowd pleasing crap as either Lilith or Maya while ‘enjoying’ the barest of rpg elements and a none-existent story while mowing down endless respawning streams of identical and moronic enemies. Read my full review of this and Dead Island here and know that this is only included for contrast.

Dead Island – the outstanding trailer failed to live up to its hype and ended up (in my opinion) being as depressingly repetitive as Borderlands, however you do get to play as either Xian Mei or Puma and that kind of ethnic diversity is worth at least a nod.

And thats it folks!
Except maybe Jurassic Park the Game, a quick action story where you play alternatively as Nima and Jessie (a great child protagonist, much like Clementine) as well as various male protagonists intermittently (this part alone merited a mention).  Or hell even some Resident Evil and Silent Hill games where the fem protagonist are a well-written character could merit being added (although this equally well-written article disagrees). Overall, these are the sort of games I look for and can quantify as ‘good games’.
From a moral, and entertainment principle standpoint, I choose to reward the folks that give a shit and are proactive in gender rights, specifically akin to Bioware’s stance where they straight up tell gay-bashers to STFU, or even the great anti-sexism efforts by the executive producer Kiki Wolfkill and 343 Industries CEO Bonnie Ross over at Halo 4.

(many thanks to Deathbydd for introducing me to many of the most badass (and satisfying) games I’ve ever played. Not because I can play as a fem hero, but because the option was there and it wasn’t a farce or some cheap attempt at titillation which was for me as a male, quite a REFRESHING change)). I want female gamers to be proactively made a part of the gaming community, not punished because of their gender by companies who cater to knuckledragging misogynists. I want video games to be taken seriously as a medium and the only way that can really happen is if I put my money where my heart is.

I now leave you with this short vid highlighting the absurd amount of phallic symbols found in games today. Enjoy!