I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but South Western Ontario (SWO to the cool kids), particularly Toronto, has been getting pulled back and forth with all kinds of different weather lately. Today, we have the joy of snow/freezing rain. Warning: Driving is treacherous in these conditions. Many bothans died to bring us this information. 

Like most things, my long commute in crappy weather got me thinking about video game weather systems. There have been some fantastic ones. I’m really enjoying Spec Ops: The Line right now, with it’s crazy sandstorms, but Rockstar is still the outright winner in my mind with Red Dead Redemption. What games have had great weather systems? Either ones that are dynamic and cinematographic, or those that play a part in the game, like Heavy Rain, Spec Ops or the upcoming Company of Heroes 2.

Friday, 1:18 pm – Gavin

Meanwhile, I crap on Ricky’s challenge, as I just nabbed The Walking Dead for 50% off.  I still will never pay for a game that isn’t at least 50% off on Steam. 

Restraint is a tough one, and I’m going through it right now.  This whole last year was a massive splurge for me.  Between Humble Bundles, gifts, and holiday sales, I’m now up to about 88 games.  I’ve played through (or at least sufficiently to my satisfaction in order to get my money’s worth) about 25% of them (warning: list follows).

  1. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution – The Missing Link DLC
  3. Deus Ex
  4. Half-Life 2
  5. Half-Life 2: Episode 1
  6. Half-Life
  7. Portal
  8. Portal 2
  9. Left 4 Dead 2
  10. BIT.TRIP.RUNNER
  11. Limbo
  12. Super Meat Boy
  13. Garry’s Mod
  14. Natural Selection 2
  15. Dear Esther
  16. Cogs
  17. Microsoft Flight
  18. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
  19. Universe Sandbox
  20. Team Fortress 2
  21. Crayon Physics Deluxe
  22. Chainz 2

And that’s not counting the games that are in progress – Spec Ops: The Line, NightSky, Machinarium, and Amnesia (though who knows when I’ll get back to that pants-crappingly terrifying game). 

I’m more than happy with my selection that remains.  I have literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of gaming waiting for me.  So what’s with the compulsion to buy more?  The obvious answer is “because I can”, but I can go out and spend $500 on a bottle of champagne.  What makes me want to buy more games?  Perhaps it’s the years spent without a gaming PC.  Perhaps it’s the (false) idea that “the games will eventually go away, so I need to stock up!”.  I have no idea, but I know that right now, it’s quite difficult for me not to head down to the nearest game shop and pick up a Wii-U.  I KNOW there isn’t enough available on the system to keep me satisfied.  I KNOW that my wife will pick up the tablet once, say “Hey, that’s neat” and then never pick it up again.  I KNOW that there won’t be a simultaneous release of 3D Mario, Metroid, and Zelda anytime soon.  So what’s with the temptation?  Why doesn’t my brain register that it would be just as much fun to put that money towards a new monitor or a pair of great headphones, which I will probably get more use out of over the long run?

I want to support the developers and the IP that I love, much like Ricky does.  I guess that despite my splurging in 2012, I’ve still found it easy enough to restrain myself when I need to.  But there’s always that burning desire to go out and buy something that is completely irrational for me.  Maybe I should remove my credit card information from Steam while I’m at it, just to avoid those spur-of-the-moment purchases.  Lord knows I won’t get to The Walking Dead for months.

Ricky, once you get right into the heart of your massive Ubisoft collection, you’ll forget all about the new games.  What you need is a hook – one game that latches on to you and brings you right into the world, like Skyrim, Borderlands 1 and 2, and Fallout 3 did to you.  You have to fall in love with a game and not just see getting through the list as a chore.  Truly, a gaming backlog like we have is the first worldiest of the first world problems.  We can beat this!

Friday, 8:43 am – Ricky

Hat-tip to Gavin for this suggestion. I’ve removed my credit card from my Steam account to help avoid temptation.

Untitled

I hope this helps, because man… Man…

Friday, 8:09 am – Ricky

Well, looks like Sony might beat Microsoft to the punch this generation.

Sony announced an event on February 20th in a video they release yesterday. Normally I’d say there’s not much to that, but with rumors swirling of new consoles this year, I’m not dismissing it as quickly. The infamous Michael Pachter has tweeted that Sony investors have also been invited to the event, which leads folks to believe that this will be a console launch.

What do you think?

Thursday, 2:04 pm – Ricky

These are all valid, reasonable, and logical points.

On the other hand, FUK ROCK* I WANT THIS GAM NA0!

Seriously though, most gamers are neither logical nor reasonable, and many do not understand the reasons behind delays. That said, those that do understand usually follow this kind of news more closely than the general population (ie. people like the crew here), and we should be more understanding.

Still, this news has thrown my whole Challenge out of whack. No longer will I have the sweet sweet GTA5 single and multiplayer goodness to get me through the Summer and much of the Fall. Instead, I’m left with a ton of options! This is actually bad for the purpose of this Challenge: I can only choose, at most, two more games for the year, and I need make sure they hold me until September… along with all the 170 other games I own and haven’t played, of course. And I guess that’s the purpose of this Challenge. To make me think through the acquisition of new games.

For example: Do I have a game like GTA5? Yup, Saints Row 3. I also just played through Sleeping Dogs, so I’ve scratched that genre’s itch for a bit. What about Sim City? I’ve never played Tropico 4, and that’s in the same genre. Omerta: City of Gangsters? Man, I should really finish X-COM: Enemy Unknown.

It seems that there’re plenty of games in my library to play in a myriad of genres, but what about the amazing quality titles coming out that have no equal? For example, I’ve been coveting Strike Suit Zero, a space combat game in the fashion of TIE Fighter or X-Wing. This used to be one of my favourite genres when I was a kid, and I contributed a butt-load of money to Star Citizen this past Fall. But for all the good things I’ve heard about Strike Suit Zero, I can’t bring myself to “use” 1 of my 3 game purchases for the year. Like the games Gavin mentions, SSZ has it’s issues, and yes, they’re fixing them, albeit slowly. I’d still love to get in on that unique experience this year.

And what about all the amazing, and generally short and unique, indie games? Cart Life, Kentucky Route Zero, Miasmata, Receiver… these games are meant to be snowflakes – there shouldn’t be anything in my unplayed library that compares. Maybe I should just blame Idle Thumbs for promoting these types of unique titles.

Playing Jekyll and Hyde again, there are also amazing gaming experiences waiting for me in my backlog, and the point of the Challenge is to have those experiences before they truly slip by wayside of my life. It’s at the expense of these other awesome experiences, but maybe it’ll make me more selective of games I purchase in the future.

BUT WHO AM I TO DENY MY NATURE, THAT OF A CORE GAMER!?

One who wants to support developers and IP I believe in, one who plays many different genres of games versus the annual Call of Duty and Madden frat boys, and one who participates in industry commentary at a more involved level than 95% of other people who play video games. This Challenge is truly denying myself the opportunity to fully immerse myself in these activities.

Consider this my 1 month update. Verdict: Things aren’t going as well as I’d hoped.

Thursday, 12:07 pm – Gavin

Yargh!  But if nothing else, take solace in the fact that we’d all rather have a great game that is delayed, rather than a good game that is completely buggy.  The PC port of Dark Souls had some serious faults, to the point that game, when prompting you to press a button to engage in an action, pulled up graphical prompts from the Xbox 360 controller.  That’s laughably bad.

It’s why I’m not mad about Half-Life 3 taking so long in development.  It will come out when it’s ready, and we’ll all be ready for it.  The expectations of a series like GTA or Half-Life are so lofty that quality is more important that timeliness; there’s no EA Sports schedule where it has to come out every single year.  And if a few months is all it takes to get it right, then so be it.  A properly tested and debugged but late game is much more valuable than an improperly tested, buggy game that needs serious patching to fix (ahem *FALLOUT 3* ahem).

Thursday, 10:55 am – Ricky

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Grand Theft Auto 5 delayed, launching Sept. 17

Thursday, 10:37 am – Gavin

There’s nothing desperately unconventional about NightSky, except that occasionally you control a device that carries your “character” (a plain and simple sphere) or that occasionally you control the gravity in which your sphere exists.  Let me just say that I’m glad I got it as part of the Humble Bundle for dirt cheap, rather than full price.

I’ve outsourced my next-game selection to Ricky, so it looks like as soon as I’m done with Spec Ops: The Line, I’ll be playing Max Payne 3.  2012-in-2013 is in full effect, apparently.  I remember Max Payne 2 extremely vividly, so I’m anxious to see what kind of improvements Rockstar has made with MP3, both in terms of gameplay and in terms of narrative devices.  I’ve often said that one of the more enjoyable levels in Max Payne 2 was when you’re at the construction site, and you do the same level as both Max and Mona, from their respective viewpoints and taking different paths through the level.  It was the first time I can recall experiencing that kind of narrative element in a game (obviously it’s much more common now, both in games and in movies/TV), and I thought that it was done excellently.  MP2 did away with the terrible drug OD scenes that we saw in MP1, which stand my test as some of the most annoying levels in gaming, and that includes every single instance in a game where that trope of “Oh you’ve been captured/knocked out/separated from your stuff and now you have to do everything without all of your stuff”, which is so goddamn overplayed that it makes me want to stop gaming altogether.

Playing through games like Half Life 2: Episode 1 and Spec Ops have made me appreciate shorter, denser games.  I’ll always adore long games as well, but they’re an event for me.  It took me ages to get through Zelda: Skyward Sword and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  The timing worked out that I had a few marathon sessions in there, but that’s just tempting fate.  I have the lumbering behemoth of Skyrim still waiting for me, and there are a few long games that I simply won’t be able to avoid buying – the next Zelda, Metroid, and 3D Mario games, respectively.  But I really do like the idea of dropping $20 or less for a game that gives me 10 hours of entertainment.  Something neat, over and done with in three weeks, that kind of thing.  I hate the idea that when I hit Skyrim later this year, that I’ll abandon playing anything else for two months while I try to maximize my experience with that.

Maybe I’ll just counteract it with the whopping 15 minutes of Thirty Flights of Loving.

Tuesday, 7:48 pm – Ricky

REALLY, I HAVE NIGHTSKY!?!? Dammit, I have so many games I don’t even know what I have…

So I played 5 levels of NightSky, and it’s pretty cool! It’s your standard physic based puzzler, but with some really neat puzzles and a great atmosphere. Not sure how I got it, but yeah, you can probably buy it somewhere. I’ll definitely play some more of it soon!

In yet more industry news, wolfenstein.com. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, 9:27 am – Gavin

In other industry news, looks like the orphans from THQ have been adopted!  Retro Studios has picked up Vigil, Junction Point, and a host of Bioware employees who recently left.  Vigil was previously working on a project, codenamed Crawler, so with Retro now leading the charge, this could be fascinating.  Darksiders 3, perhaps?  Only on the Wii-U?  Either way, this is good news – Vigil is a talented team, so it’s nice to see that they’ll be able to continue their work.

Tuesday, 9:07 am – Gavin

Glad to have you back, Albert!

Games with weather systems?  The first game I saw that had a weather system that I actually noticed was Grand Theft Auto IV.  It felt organic and real, and it affected your vision within the game.  I know it’s not the first, but it’s the first I noticed.  Sure, games have had scripted weather sequences, like the rainfall when you first land on Zebes in Super Metroid, but on the whole, GTA IV was my first exposure to a real, intelligently programmed system.

Left 4 Dead 2 had that mission with the rainfall – Hard Rain, I think?  I enjoyed the hell out of that level and it was very panic-inducing, when you’re trying to battle a horde and you can’t hear your teammates because of the rain, but it did feel desperately scripted, like “it will rain hard every 15 seconds”.  Getting inside the sugar mill was such a (temporary) relief because you knew you only had to fight the zombies and not worry about getting lost.

Weather can also guide gameplay, but my example here is very parameter-driven – Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.  There are a few areas with acid rain that you simply cannot access until you have the suit that protects you from said raid.  It’s weather, but (acid rain) could be replaced by (falling pile of burning puppies) and it would have the same rough effect – an area that you can’t access until you get a certain item, which is a very conventional Metroid feature.  Acid rain was the only direction they could take that without treading too much on past ideas – in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, the “acid rain” was actually a cloud of microscopic enemy bacteria – the Ing cloud.  Couldn’t traverse it until you had the right equipment, that sort of thing.

On to Sim City.  I was never a huge Sim City player – I didn’t have the patience when I was younger.  I ended up using money cheats, not because I couldn’t make money and grow my city organically (I couldn’t, but that’s not why I did it), but because I had more fun designing cities to my own geographic and environmental specifications and standards, and seeing if I could make them prosper.  I was a crappy Sim City player.  Last one I had was SC 2000.  I saw the trailer for the newest one, and it looked absolutely gorgeous and fantastic, but I must be honest, it didn’t strike me as something I wanted to play.  Not because it’s not a fantastic game, but because I know it’s going to be an insane time sink and I’m actively trying to avoid as many games like that as I can.  I simply don’t have the time for these games that are non-terminal.  I wish I did, because I’d love for that to be my outlet, but alas and alack, what can you do?

I’m not too far off the end to Spec Ops: The Line now.  It’s a short game, but it’s been absolutely worth every penny I spent on it.  I have no problem retroactively dubbing a game my “game of the year” for a previous year, if I didn’t play it during that year – I did that for 2011 with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Portal 2, as I didn’t play any of those games until 2012, and I’ll definitely do it for 2012 in 2013.  I previously said that my GOTY 2012 was Frog Fractions, but I have no qualms in saying that it’s been bumped to second place, now that I’ve played Spec Ops: The Line.  This game is fabulously dark and incredibly subtle in all the right places.  If you haven’t played this game, devote 10 measly hours of your gaming life to it and you will adore it.  The attention to detail is top-shelf and it makes the storytelling absolutely gripping.  I can’t wait for a spoiler podcast about it, because I’m completely in love with this game.  I’ve already told the wife that I’m finishing this game before the weekend, so here’s to the expeditious completion of a fabulous game.

I’m also approaching the end of NightSky.  I’ve got two more chapters to complete.  This game drives me nuts, in the best way.  It’s the simplest little platformer where you control a ball and you must get it from one screen to another.  There are no enemies; only obstacles.  Ricky, I know you own this game.  Give it a whirl when you’re looking to kill a few minutes.  It’s terrific.  I know that the last two chapters are going to be punishingly challenging, but still, it’s such a relaxing game, even when it’s incredibly frustrating.

Tuesday, 8:28 am – Ricky

An Albert appears! Welcome back, and happy to hear there’s been some gaming time in your busy days.

There are a few more DLCs for Sleeping Dogs, including the Nightmare in North Point content that released around Halloween last year. That said, I didn’t really dive deep into the game. As I mentioned last week, I just wasn’t motivated to play beyond the main storyline. It’s not that it was a bad game, but I think you hit the nail on the head: It didn’t take any risks, it played it safe after it established its boundaries. Still a great game, and I really hope Squeenix goes for a another kick at the can.

SimCity sounds tempting, but I’m running on limited purchases for the year and I’m not sure that SimCity is where I want to spend my time. Sure, the multiplayer aspect is tempting – I think that, for folks who buy only a couple games a year, it’s a must have – but in the end it’s the same game over and over. Build roads, create zones, wait for people to move in. Is there a “twist” I’m not aware of? I still think Albert should just buy the game for me and make it easy on me…

[Editor’s note i.e. My note: I changed SimCity 3 to a 4 in Albert’s post, since this is indeed the 5th version, though I’m not certain he was referring to the 4th and not the 3rd. Whatever, editorized.]

I finished Spec Ops: The Line last night. We need to have a spoiler podcast about it, since I know Gavin is playing through it as well. If I’d played this game in 2012, it would’ve been in the running for my game of the year. Just an amazing piece of design, and such subtle, artful storytelling. Sure, you shoot dudes. Lots of dudes. But that’s not why you play this game at all. At. All.

Monday, 5:04 pm – Albert

Greetings Canadians! I have returned after an absence. Thanks for all the good wishes while I was in transit! I have to say that weather on the West Coast is definitely not freezing snow / rain. It’s quite mild here actually. Sometimes I have to wear a *gasp* SWEATER! Anyways: GAMES!

There has been a lot that has happened in the past couple of weeks but I haven’t been able to get my posts in. For starters, SLEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPYYYY DAWWWGGSSSS! Is finished! I know Ricky finished it as well. Great game. The visuals, presentation, audio, story, and gameplay are all that you can ask for in an open world game. The story was great and I wanted to get all the collectibles and even do all the side missions. I managed to get most of everything except for the car races which got a little bit tedious. I also completed their one (very short) DLC – The Zodiac Tournament, which is a homage to Enter the Dragon, I believe. Regardless, it was over in less than an hour (including the search for collectibles) and in the end, was just a short story. In the end, Sleepy Dogs was a great game. I guess my only gripe was that it was good, but nothing that REALLY took any risks. Maybe it was because I enjoyed Saints Row 3 so much (RIP) that I didn’t see anything that completely blew me away.

I recently played the Beta for SimCity. SimCity is going through a revival that I can only describe as X-com-ish. While they did not streamline SimCity 4, they made it more accessible. Now, I was never an amazing SimCity player. My cities usually sucked and I always expanded more quickly than I probably should have. Pipes were always a pain and many of my people did not get the water they so desperately needed. The new SimCity makes this a low easier using roads as the carrier for both power and water. If this seems overly simple, don’t fear. There are many other things to worry about that you’ll be happy you have at least one less thing to worry about. The beta was a tutorial mission (again, sooooo much to learn) and an hour of freeplay. It was like goddamn preschool! While the tutorial was interesting, it was mostly just to get you familiar with certain problems you might have: disposal, power, water, crime, fire, zoning, upgrading, traffic problems, etc. In my hour of building my own town, I had no problem jumping in and creating a town. I say town because all my people were low income, low entertainment, low-end factory workers. EA blocked out so much of what there was in the Beta but what they did give was the impression that this game could absorb your time for hours. I was quickly building commercial, industrial and residential areas while trying to supply everyone with the essentials. The difference between the old Simcity and the new is that you can create a building but you can also edit it to add more features. For example, I created a school but at its base it could only hold a couple hundred. With my raising population, I added “sections” or more classrooms to the side of the school and on top of each other as well as adding bus parking and I had to place pickup stops for buses. Another new feature is the ability to work in tandem with your neighbor towns. I didn’t have time to create two towns but in the tutorial it demonstrates how you can sell power, water, services to other towns. If one town has more power than it needs it can send it over to yours so you don’t have to waste space creating that nasty coal power plant. More than that, if you have a crime problem, your criminals will spill over to other towns, so now your mess is everyone’s’ mess. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s good or not.

That was long.

tl/dr – Simcity is accessible for newcomers but difficult to master. The graphics, sounds, customization makes this SimCity a potential for the best in series. Of course, that is if you can handle the always on DRM. No plane rides with this game.

Monday, 9:41 am – Ricky

I still love this time lapse video of the weather system in Red Dead. Man, I want to replay that game so bad… Make sure to bump this up to HD!

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