Sunday, July 29, 2012

Diaries From Day Z: Day Four

When I logged back in for my fourth day in Day Z, it was dark. Another pitch black night that had me awkwardly juggling a flashlight and a Lee Enfield rifle, unable to use them both at the same time. I was stoked about the Lee Enfield, but it doesn't do much good when you can't see what you're shooting at. Either way, I had enough firepower for self-defense, but was still in need of other supplies, so I set my sights on some nearby factory buildings. Inside, I found a bunch of machinery and equipment for repairing cars -- completely useless to me.

I went up the stairs onto the upper-level catwalks and found a hunting knife, good for cutting up meat from animals. If only I had some matches to start a fire, I might be set. Feeling fairly content with that find, I headed back for ground level and stepped outside, ready to search the next building. There were still a lot of zombies around, so I had to be careful; the darkness would make it easier for me to sneak past them, but it would be much harder to defend myself if one saw me. With my flashlight drawn (zombies don't seem to notice the light), I slowly crept to the next building, holding my breath as unseen zombies moaned and snarled alarmingly close to me. And then I heard the sounds of a helicopter approaching.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Diaries From Day Z: Day Three

I found my first gun and encountered my first bandits in my third day of Day Z. When I logged back in, I respawned somewhere near an industrial harbor, in the middle of another pitch black night. I turned my flashlight on and discovered that I was standing in front of a large crane with a ladder running up its side. Some part of my brain thought there might be loot up there, so I approached it and started to climb the ladder. When I got to the first landing, I had to walk around the structure to another ladder, but because of how useless the flashlight is, I couldn't see anything and ended up walking straight off the edge of the crane. Two broken legs, massive blood loss, no idea where to go or what to do to fix my situation. Off to a great start. Time for a suicidal respawn and hopefully a little more longevity in my next life.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Diaries From Day Z: Day Two

I was joined by a friend in my second day of Day Z. My friend, JSL, had spawned on the coast like all new players do. Without an in-game map by which to navigate, we had to describe notable landmarks to each other as I attempted to back-track towards the coast. "I can see a lighthouse from here." ~ "I vaguely recall seeing a lighthouse at one point. Do you see any piers?" ~ "No, but I see railroad tracks." ~ "Maybe we should follow the railroad tracks to each other, because I also see railroad tracks." ~ "But are we looking at the same rail line?" ~ "And if we are, how do we make sure we're going in the right directions?" ~ "Where's the sun? Can we guide by it?" ~ "Can't tell. It's cloudy."

In the midst of all of this, JSL managed to get himself killed, and thus respawned at a completely new location. With nothing else to do, I decided to loot some nearby houses, figuring if I died, I'd at least respawn somewhere on the coast and we could find each other more easily. At this point, I was already over half-dead from various zombie encounters, and didn't have any valuable loot to worry about losing. But when I found a hatchet in a farm house and figured out how to equip it as a weapon, I found a whole new thirst for life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Diaries from Day Z: Day One

My first day in Day Z was painful and unforgiving. Venturing into Chernarus, the post-Soviet countryside where the dead walk freely and bandits prey on every feeble survivor, is a task best done after consulting every handbook and survival guide available. With a rash desire to seek my thrills and treasure in the desolate zombie wasteland, having heard tales of glory from many survivors, I dove headfirst into the conflict and quickly found myself overwhelmed by the harsh brutality of this world. I realized only too late that I was unprepared for this endeavor, and met my gruesome fate huddled in the corner of a small farmhouse as the dead came for my cold, shivering flesh.

These diaries aim to serve as a warning to any fellow survivor who might dare to brave the certain death that awaits them in Chernarus. Let you who reads this text know what to expect from the phenomenon known as Day Z, based on my own experiences within this world.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Condemned 2: Not as Good as Criminal Origins

The original Condemned: Criminal Origins from 2005 was a surprising success at the time, offering a splendid survival-horror atmosphere with a brutally visceral melee combat system. Creepy and immersing, with lots of good scripted scares, it quickly found its way into my list of favorite horror games. Its 2008 sequel, Condemned 2: Bloodshot, was one of my most highly anticipated games. I waited years for some kind of press release saying Monolith would port it to the PC like they did the first game, but that news never came. It wasn't until 2012 that I finally got a chance to play it, and I found myself rather disappointed with the game.

As it turns out, Bloodshot is the type of sequel that tries a little too hard to be bigger, better, and bolder than its predecessor, and ends up losing most of its unique charm in the process. With a greater emphasis on combat, a bizarre supernatural premise for everything, the wider availability of guns, and a nearly constant presence of other NPCs, Condemned 2 effectively undermines the very qualities that made Criminal Origins such a suspenseful survival-horror experience. Despite some crucial improvements with the crime scene investigations and a more robust melee combat system, the overall experience proved far less enjoyable than the original.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One Year of The Nocturnal Rambler

On July 12th of 2011, I published my first article on this blag -- my rambling thoughts on the good and bad elements of the first Mass Effect. Since then I've continued to write reviews of whatever games I was playing at the time while offering occasional commentary on the industry in general. In the past year I've published 152 articles and still have 22 drafts kicking around that may one day develop into full articles. Over 60,000 total page views and 109 published comments. And still no six-figure endorsement money. Perhaps it's time I start posting obnoxious PayPal donation links everywhere.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of praise and acknowledgment that regular and incidental readers have had to offer; it's rather validating to know that you all appreciate the thought I put into these things. Even though this is basically just a frivolous hobby, I feel like I've done a fair bit of good for gaming by criticizing everything that's wrong with Skyrim and Twilight Princess, and for giving the spotlight to some lesser-known gems. I've had a lot of fun reviewing TV episodes that use video games as their central plot device, and it was fun putting my psychology background to use interpreting a news piece on video game violence.

As year two of The Nocturnal Rambler rolls on, I hope to continue growing with my writing while keeping pace with reviews and opinionated editorials. I'd like to remodel the aesthetic design of the blog some day, and find inspiration for some new periodical series to run (anybody have any ideas or suggestions?). Free and effective publicity would be nice, too, but that seems like a lot of work. Either way, thank you to everyone who visits this humble site, and a special thanks for all of the kind words so far. Hard to believe an entire year can go by so quickly. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Content

A common complaint with video games is that they're sometimes too short, or just generally lacking in content; I don't think I've ever heard a professional reviewer claim a game had too much content. With video games, it seems almost universal that the bigger it is, and the more stuff there is to do, the better the game turns out. Well, I'm beginning to think that there is such a thing as too much content. The acceptable length of a movie, for example, is anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours -- much longer than that and the film can become a burden to continue watching. Likewise, I feel that certain games can outstay their welcome by being too long or simply having too much content to experience.

There are obviously major differences in the way we consume video games and movies, however. Like novels, video games are meant to be experienced over multiple sessions, so when you get tired of playing the game, you can just stop and come back to it later, and you can often pick and choose what content to experience in a video game -- something you can't really do with a movie or novel. These two elements are what make the acceptable length of video games range anywhere from five hours to 100 hours. Generally speaking, longer games are more "epic" and "grandiose," but some games are at their best when they're short and sweet. Because some games are too long for their own good.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Killing Floor Summer Sideshow 2012

On July 5th, Tripwire Interactive kicked off the second annual Summer Sideshow event for Killing Floor, their popular zombie co-op shooter. This update features a new map, new weapons (sort of), new achievements, and a return of the unique "circus sideshow freak" skins for each type of specimen. As cool as it is for TWI to put on these themed events and to continue releasing free updates for a three-year old game, this one just doesn't seem as cool as previous ones have been, and certain gameplay changes have imbalanced the game significantly. Continue reading for my opinionated review of the 2012 Summer Sideshow Event.