Lost Sequel

Sometimes you fall in love with a game, book or movie and can barely contain yourself as you hope for more. You may get that sequel or next installment and hate it. It just wasn’t good, didn’t perform how you wanted, even worse it could have ended badly. A tragedy all of us fall into when we get into something. So let’s talk about that.

Recently Game of Thrones ended and a lot of people just were not happy with the way everything turned out. For us old Dexter fans we just shrugged it off and joked about how ours was still worse. This leaves us to a question of what even is a “good” ending and how can you achieve it?

I think a lot of that answer is that you simply can’t make everyone happy. One person will be upset that their favorite person wasn’t the king, the next will find loopholes that were made in the earlier seasons of the show and everything crumbles from there. I get it though. Sometimes the writers just want to be done, I have even had DND sessions where at the end of the three months of getting together the finale of it all is lackluster because I was tired of writing.

You may think things like that don’t hit writers that are paid the big bucks. The director of a hit show making good money doesn’t just ‘get tired’ right?

I think we all lose interest in things and that plays a small part of it. More often for less prominent things like the largest show on television, the real problem turns into funding.

My favorite game that snuck through on the Xbox 360 was a title known as Alan Wake. A story of a writer that falls deeper and deeper into the story. A literal fight of light against darkness and a soundtrack to die for. It resonated well with me in all the right ways. Character development was great and all the people you met were memorable. The town was scenic and the woods felt ominous, I was hooked.

The titles DLC introduced you further into the story and how the writer worked things into the real world. Then a small arcade title came out and added a small bit more to the mystery, but still never a true sequel. It isn’t as far along as the Half-Life 3 joke, but it grows every year. With cameo appearances in titles like Quantum Break us fans are led along like a horse with a carrot. We just want to know what happens!

With games sometimes it is the studios crumble or are bought out and told to work on different things. We all get it, but we can be upset by it too. I think that as fans a large part of what is made is ours as well. We grow it all by becoming fans of the things we love. Adding to the lore with our own stories and theories and trying to keep the cult following going. If you look deep into the history of games you will find games that many had thought were ‘dead’ that keep trucking along because of dedicated fans wanting to see their passion go on as well.

What can we do to try and keep getting our sequels and getting endings that satisfy us?

Support the creators, keep them interested and let them know how much you appreciate what they do. There is a man trying to convert Ocarina of Time into the Unreal engine, that man is a hero of mine. His work is gorgeous and you should support him!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-86WpU2f7J_es2gWJSuX-w

That is a link to his page.

I could spend days telling you all about things I want to see go on. About the musicians, I want to hear more from. The books that I know have more story to them. MAybe if we all work together as a community we can fight away some of these lost sequels and get into more focus on creation. After all, we all like cool things.

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5 Horror Levels Done Right

Horror in video games can be something that is lost quickly. All it takes is for a moment to feel goofy to really take you out of the element and help you lose the immersion that you found yourself in. These five games that I am talking about today may not have been a scary game or horror all the way throughout, but the managed to really rock it on one level. Now keep in mind many of these were experienced as they came out and may have a different feel if played now as opposed to then. No matter the case let me know what some of the ones you thought were too in the comments.

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

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Number One – Timesplitters Future Perfect – Mansion Of Madness

Timesplitters was always a game that brought you to different locals. You may find yourself far in the future, in the past fighting in the jungles, or in this case a haunted mansion in the nineties. The previous two levels of this game had you working with a character much like Austin Powers and had a really light-hearted fun feel to it. That was that about to change.

As soon as you enter this mansion you could tell things were off. The new character to help you out was a teenage girl that was telling you about all the haunted rumors of the house. Sure there are zombies and giant deer corpse creatures, but that wasn’t the spooky part. The children rooms in the house had rocking chairs and quietly sang to you. It was eery because they didn’t have to put much into it to make you feel uneasy, the whole level was a blast and worth a play through on its own.

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Number Two – Half-Life 2 – Ravenholm

When you were told we don’t go to Ravenholm you should have listened. The Half-life games were fun for their oddity about them. From the guns feeling strong and unique to the craziness that was the G-Man, the game had a certain “feel” to it. So when you heard there was a scary level they added in, you had to give it a try. The headcrab infestation that is plaguing this old mining town is horror done right. The first time playing through this for me was on the Orange Box. I had on a pair of great headphones with full surround sound and was into it, the screams the headcrabs had made me wish I wasn’t. Top that with the fact that you didn’t have many good guns at the time and get ready for a level of horror you didn’t expect from the game until you were knee deep in it.

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Number 3 – Halo Combat Evolved – 343 Guilty Spark

The Flood may be known to everyone who hears the Halo name now, but at the time so many of us had no clue. My friends and I didn’t have internet when the game came out and thought it was just cool looking from fighting aliens. My best bud Matt and I had spent the night at a youth group and played the game nonstop throughout and got it soon after to beat the game campaign ourselves. I remember walking through the swamps and thinking how cool all the different locations in the game were. We played on a beach, in a space ship, in an alien control ship and now these swamps, how neat! I was wrong.

The Flood is an enemy that needs to be experienced to understand why they are a horror type enemy. As the ammo runs thin and they continue to sprint at you, your heart races, you ask your friend if they have shotgun ammo left, you run. The flood in lore is such a huge part of this franchise and later on encompasses much more of the games. To bring it all back home you need to start here, you need to fight the enemy that even the Covenant fear and 343 Guilty Spark knows the way. Obviously, he just wants to help.

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Number 4 – Bioshock Infinite – Comstock House

Many people remember playing through the first Bioshock title and enjoying the horror elements it had. The creepy splicers and the Big Daddies stomping around with all that Adam they are guarding you against. Infinite took a different approach, the bright open sky, and sunshine for days. The game has it’s elements here and there like Songbird and effects your rifts soon have, but nothing could prepare you for the Comstock House.

In the element of the game that shows you the worst possible outcome, you learn why you must be there for Elizabeth. You hear the horrors she has to go through and what it ultimately turns her into. The Boys of Silence in this portion of the game reminded me what a scary enemy can mean. The lunatics that are normally docile beings leaping at you like no other when the Boys blare their horn. You want to see a dark future, give this level a play.

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Number 5 – Fallout 3 – Dunwich Building

To be fair I believe any of the fallout titles since three and their own version on the Dunwich Building would have worked. The Dunwich storyline in Fallout follows a strong Lovecraftian horror. In a game that is about Nuclear Apocalypse and how people fair you may think there would be more spooky things. The ghouls may make you jump the first time, but otherwise, the scariest thing is usually if you forgot to save and you die. Dunwich shakes this up with a story of an altar far below the building to Ug-Qualtoth. In normal Fallout fasion, much of what you learn comes from the PC terminals throughout. The descent into madness is a fun read for when you want to feel the horror writing kick in from Bethesda. I personally enjoyed the Dunwich touch in their newest 76 installment the best, but will always remember Fallout 3 for this particular level.

So there you have it, five levels that I believe really kicked you into a horror game. All of these didn’t feel like they would have them until you were there and fighting your way through the masses. I would have loved to save this until near Halloween, but it just kept creeping up into my head to get it typed up. I love games that surprise you with a level that doesn’t fit the mold. Things like how Splatter House reversed you back to 2D at times, it spices it up and keeps each level exciting. Even in the large open world games I always went back to that “level” when I would replay because the lore and flavor were so exciting to experience.

Either way, let me know what you all think. What games shook you up? What ones had a surprise scary level built in? Let me know and I will talk to all of you tomorrow!

Play Games and Be Happy

Shane

 

Feature Photo by Javier García on Unsplash

Sit Down Sunday – Borderlands

A skag roars in the distance, I turn and take a shot with my incinerating sniper rifle. A small amount of EXP pops up and my level DINGS! I allocate my new skill point down a skill tree that makes my Bloodwing stronger and I wade thicker into the camp of the enemy, readying my shotgun with six shots and knowing more loot awaits. This is Pandora, this is a looter-shooter, this is Borderlands.

When thinking about doing a start for Sit Down Sunday a ton of games popped into my head. I know I want to hit up titles like Gauntlet, Army of Two, Diablo, and Gears of War. That’s before I get into titles like A way out and Portal 2! With so many games out there it was hard to pick a place to start, but with me mentioning this title multiple times over the last week with its remaster I figured it was only fair.

It is hard not to smile when you start up a new character on the crisp new graphics and hear “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” blaring. A song that forever brings this exact opening scene to mind. I ready up a character, in this case, Mordecai the Hunter, one of the easiest for solo play. I know that I want my Roland and Brick to be when my friends jump on soon. This is a title that is hard not to think co-op when you play, when the tougher the enemies the better the loot, and you always need a sweet legendary gun drop.

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With work running late and a nap taking hold I didn’t get on early like I planned and missed my game night time with the friends, but that didn’t stop booting this up. I know soon enough I’ll have a gunner in my vehicle and more active skills flying out. You have drop-in co-op or the same screen co-op which I appreciate more every time I rarely see it. Getting that physical experience of screaming at a screen together is irreplaceable and something that grew my love of gaming over the years.

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The updates are rich and look amazing in 4k. I quickly made my way off the bus and into Fyrestone, enjoying the updated Angel graphics as I went. The snap of the old Jakobs sniper as the bandits fell and if they got too close an explosion from the Gearbox shotgun they provided. Extremely powerful in the early game and devasting to these poor level one enemies. When they fell I settled in quickly to completing quests and soon finding my old friend Dr. Zed, no medical degree. I couldn’t help the grin I had seeing the old intro screens and getting giddy for the soon to be Borderlands 3.

There is now a nice golden key chest sitting across from Zed’s shop, but if you have played Borderlands 2 you save these bad boys until a bit later in the game. You start with seventy-five of the golden shift keys and they can go quick. After I turned in my fifth quest an achievement popped reminding me of the first time I rolled through all these little finds and returns quests. My good friend Hunter telling me to give the game a shot over Christmas break so many years ago. Nervous when Angel first asks, “Would you kindly help that Claptrap unit” as I rolled off of Bioshock.

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My man TK Baha looks great perched on his chair laughing at his own jokes and making sure I don’t smell like skag. I like seeing him pre-DLC and enjoying his special shotgun as it waves through enemies. With co-op play going through the original over ten times I played all kinds of special guns, checking out all their unique benefits. A play style I strongly suggest is firing the gun you get a few times regardless of if it “says” it is weaker than your current one. Many of these rifles, rockets, and pistols having unique benefits that make up for their slightly weaker damage.

TK set me back on the path and soon I was working my way through Skag Gully. Shanecus_BorderlandsGameoftheYearEdition_20190408_03-04-50.png

My goal this early section of the game is to cause some damage to the local bandit population. The first big stop is taking out a local leader Nine Toes, wading in through a horde of smaller skags until you finally see the big man himself.

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The battle was quick and sweet, but even now I remember the first time when I struggled. The humor of the game starting to hit you in the face as you realize you will have hours upon hours of sweet looting fun. You soon open the chest behind him, hoping to get something awesome and return to TK to continue on, but Zed to get paid. I mean come on, TK doesn’t have that kind of money.

Now when you want a good couch co-op there aren’t many more options you can ask for than this. You have each character feeling truly unique, the feel of each gun going down a different path and the fun of finding new awesome things with friends. Updates to the title like the graphics, the new head masks, and a mini-map are welcome and great for spicing up another play through. I remember having a driver play while I opened my map to navigate us in the original, great times, but the mini-map is still better.

Playing through just the main game will net many people about thirty hours of gameplay at a normal pace. The beauty of this title is it has all the DLC with it to give you another thirty or more. New Game Plus gives you a nice reason to run through again and hearing the level up DING is great until max level. Get to that point and maybe you can try to take on the raid boss Crawmerax.

I feel I don’t have to do much more to convince you to try this game out. Some people complain the art isn’t to their liking, but if that is stopping you I strongly urge you to give it another shot. Rarely do I run into a franchise that brings me back over and over eagerly. Borderlands is one of the very few, so if you haven’t gotten onto the Pandora hype train friends. It’s time to “Catch a Ride!”

 

The Culture

Today has been a long one. One that quickly slipped through my fingers no matter how many loads of laundry I attempted to do. One thing led to the next and now sitting here it is nine at night, some days tend to go that way and you don’t find time for any of the hobbies you tell yourself you enjoy. The whole day one thing has kept bouncing back into my mind to write about, and instead of taking the easy, “I’ll do it tomorrow route.” I’m going to make my tired butt write.

Today the Borderlands Game of the Year Edition remaster came out on PS4 and Xbox One. Although I have not yet had a chance to sit down and play it, the conversation of doing so came up multiple times with different people this afternoon. Whoever I was talking to and I reminiscing over the first time playing the original game. Laughing at the jokes that a shooter hadn’t really done well before then and getting excited to travel back to Pandora. Along with all the hype for Borderlands 3 of course.

This instant connection with another person as you speak about a game isn’t just stuck to the Borderlands franchise. It is one of the few things that can span language barriers and distance when it comes to gaming. I have students come in from UNK that barely speak English but will talk circles around you about League of Legends, with the mention of Teemo sending them into loud moans of disgust. Then there are the friends’ states away that can jump into a firing squad on a game and the friendship is still there strong as ever. Even now I work on a story for a group getting ready to start a new DND campaign on roll 20.

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The beauty of all this is that is a language to gamers themselves. One that while I grew up and went from house to house and school to school many times over I could always use. It didn’t matter how much money my family had or if we lived in the bad part of a town in California, we talked about Poke’mon. We talked about the new Smash Brothers or how there are secrets hidden in Ocarina of Time. When I moved to Kansas my Sophmore year and left behind all my friends from the first fifteen years of my life I found new ones talking over Halo 2. Who soon found ourselves binging the entire series over again and anticipating the launch of Halo 3 for all the new times to be had.

Really it doesn’t have to be a game that is even out yet to get the “bug” going and feel that contagious spark amongst others in the community. Recently a lot of that is going around in the Magic the Gathering culture as a new set spoils a few cards each day. Friends sending me messages over deck ideas and coming in to order boxes daily. Making people feel and talk about the story with a new gorgeous cinematic trailer, and trying to guess where the story goes.

The conversation is great when you can move up and down the age spectrum too. As many times as I can relate with someone twice my age over how cool it was the first time beating Adventure on the Atari, I can flip that and talk about Season eight on Fortnite with a little dude. Usually with them resulting in dancing away in some sassy dance featured in that season.

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It is something that excites me more and more as I get older and continue seeing the taboo that games are for nerds fall away. The fact that Esports leagues are popping up in high schools is great to me, and mainstream media making movies over titles I never thought I would see. That podcasts about DND are at an all-time high and Game of Thrones, a fantasy series, is the most anticipated show this year.

So even when the day is long, and I wish I could have skipped parts of it in its entirety, I’m always happy to sit back and talk an exciting new game with a friend. After all, it’s part of the culture.

The Long Walk

Let’s take a moment and talk about gaming fatigue.

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This is a topic that I mentioned briefly in the first little bit that I wrote and one that I wanted to get back into before it flew from my mind. The idea that you “have to game a lot” to be a gamer. One that in and of itself can lead you to just not want to play games at all. Then before you know it you are back to the “Goodbye Micheal” episode of The Office on Netflix instead of doing anything productive or meaning full.

Be prepared for this read its full of segues

So to start, I believe most people play games for two reasons. To have fun and to get a feeling of accomplishment. Look at many of the other social trends, movies, TV shows, new songs, books. People enjoy them at the time and then the accomplishment of adding something to their internal list of “I did this!” We like knowing we finished a movie so we can talk about it. Like having binged watched that whole season of Umbrella Academy very much the same we like beating games, to stay social.

It could be that you beat a single match and the rush and thrill of sitting at the top of the leader boards or making a good dive and getting a “Penta” thrill you. It could be you finally finished the game on your backlog (Looking at you God of War) and want to tell your friends. Beating a game has many definitions. Back to it, fun and accomplishment.

Sometimes that leads to us not wanting to get back into a game. You hit a wall in the game or in your mind and don’t want to pass it. One such example is From Softwares Soul games, or more recently Sekiro. A Game that I have enjoyed a lot lately and even wanted to write about today, but video recording set me back briefly.

Sekiro, Shadows Die Twice is not what most would describe as an easy game. One that many people will die in front of a boss thirty to fifty times before you move forward. You have to learn the mannerisms of the boss that can down you in two hits to the point you know you need to jump just from the flex in the drunkard’s arm or the tilt of the bull’s horn. Sometimes that kind of boss detail can make you hit that wall and then the game gathers dust on the shelf.

When you aren’t growing you are dying. Its a phrase used time and time again in the self-help world to kind of shock you awake. A cold shower to your career or relationships. More true in games that you literally die twice in. So that sudden stop in-game progression stonewalls you and people give up. Competitive games are no different.

Most great magic players I know lost more matches than people would believe. The best League of Legends player I know has more losses on his all-time record than most people I know as well. They grind through it and get that next level. No joke, that gets tiring. To many older generations, it seems like a joke that gaming would even step into the connotation of “the grind” since games are for fun.

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Games have changed vastly in the last thirty years. A simple game like Space Invaders where all that matters is the high score. Now competes with full-fledged esports and games that blur graphics to the point you have to blink twice to make sure it isn’t a real actor. Immersion is the name of the game and the story we tell ourselves of being the hero feels more real now than ever.

It isn’t just a game, it’s a culture.

There are parts of games where achievements and trophies tempt you to try it a little harder. Or go a route you normally would never try. The grind of completing one giving you that rush when it sits done and you can talk to all your friends about how sweet it really was. Many close friends of mine still bragging over the original Seriously achievement from Gears one.

In fact every summer I make a goal to beat at least fifty video games. Usually, I tap out around thirty or so. It gets to be a lot and sometimes you lose sight of the fun. The gaming fatigue sets in fully and you can barely move past a character creation before you say, not tonight.

Oh, man, did I google how to get over that!

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I found there were a few answers to help that I found myself. One is a phrase you have heard a million times now from Shia Lebouf to Nike. Just do it. When I have told myself I just need to beat this game the third time I just jump on and say five hours. If I can’t give the game that then it really just isn’t ever going to be worth it to me. Five hours.

More often than not after hour two or three I fall into hours seven then twelve and before I know it I have another game beaten. Shooters go especially quick in this regard. Games on rails are a quick afternoon or late night binge. The open sandbox games can take some time.

That’s why the second one is, don’t do it. Seems counter-intuitive I know, but hear me out. How many times in your life are you chatting with a friend about anything else in the world and you get an itch to play the game you stepped away from out of the blue. You are chatting about how cool space is and then you hear how the people who made a space game you like also made a fantasy game. You get an opinion and that leads to “the itch” and suddenly Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2 are beaten in the span of a week.

Stepping away from a game I don’t like at the time or can’t sink any time at all into is one of the best things I did for my gaming hobby. Man do I hate feeling like I need to play “or else.” I play for the sake of gaming (self-promotion plug) and that is it. I will go on kicks where I only play my PC and then switch to my Xbox for months. I will plug in my GameCube and find myself yelling how unfair Metroid can be even still. It helped lead to one of the best gaming experiences I had in years.

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Breath of the Wild really opened up a lot of my gaming joy after a long hiatus of not beating anything. I delved deep into its open world and genuine fun. Beating it twice in completely different ways. The number of games I beat multiple times for pure joy not numbering above ten.

The game I was stuck with at the time I played it? Ryse Son of Rome. Completely different in every regard. I started that opening sequence what felt like five times and then just said, not now. I flipped on my switch I hadn’t played much and dropped deep into Zelda. Soon after beating it I saw a Spartacus episode and in I went back to Ryse. That game was done in a night and I’m glad I added it to my completion list.

Now I’m winding down here and won’t keep you much longer. The biggest point of this post was to telling you one thing. Just play what you like when you want to. With that, please, pretty please tell me what you are playing. Much like how I read books, I like jumping to games organically by what my friends suggest. Comment down wherever that tab is and say what you like. Say what you are stuck on or that one game that is on your to-do list.

Then when I visit this topic again, maybe you can tell me how far you have come. Until then just keep playing games and having fun.

 

Just Play

It came up in a recent conversation with a friend that sometimes you get into a gaming slump. One where you just can’t even get into the meat of a game without feeling overwhelmed or just not interested.  When you don’t want to even start a daunting game like Witcher because you feel it is just easier to sink five more hours into Minecraft.

Soon that feeling starts to compound into a feeling of annoyance that you aren’t beating any of your games. Next thing you know you buy another one that looks pretty and flashy so that you can try and make that go away.

It doesn’t.

So that leads me to this blog.

After a long night where I told my good friend Hunter we just needed to beat a game we sat down and marathoned one from start to finish. It wasn’t anything crazy just Gears of War 4 that I started and stopped three times already. The final boss fell around three AM. Both of us exhausted we said good game and logged off. Before having dreams of attacking the locust (main enemy of the game) I made a little side note that I should find a way to share some of that feeling with others.

It has led to an idea that I start this little page up.

Think of this as partly a large journal for all the games I am playing and going through and kind of chronicling and also kind of a way to share the joy of games with others.

What is my goal for all this? Nothing really. Just a good time and contribute towards a bet.

The bet is that it is already impossible to beat every game that has been made. Maybe that is true, and even if it wasn’t some games can’t be beaten by definition. Then sometimes there is no desire to beat them even if you could. Some are just bad. Others don’t get a fair review from people and only get touched for an hour.

So maybe in doing this, you can get a sense of how a game is without the big makeup of a review company behind it. Just my opinion. Plus if I don’t play through at least five hours I won’t review it. I have to get into the meat of it. Most of them ideally being a five or so hour in look and then a complete look. Got to make articles somehow right?

Not only video games either, I just want to spend times talking about Magic the Gathering on days and board games I like. The goal of this being people that are close and want to be friends can understand me a little bit more.

Stretch goals leading into videos and podcasts but who knows.

I’ve played with the idea of trying to do one of these for a long time. Trying and failing and trying and failing since before I even left high school. Some were “edgy” others just a day in the life. I just want to have fun with something this time and create something. So that’s what I have, for now, Seikiro Shadows Die Twice review coming soon.