CyberPunch83's Blog - Jan to Mar 17 (39 followers)
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Mar
28
PermalinkOpen-World Checklists
Open-world games, now more commonly known as sandbox titles, offer a wealth of emergent gameplay options stacked on top of the myriad of options for normal gameplay. This can result in a truly massive experience where you can find yourself putting in dozens, maybe even hundreds of hours trying to find every secret, explore every nook and cranny of the world, and maybe even discover a few easter eggs along the way, placed in such a way that only the most thorough of hunters or completionists will find and enjoy them.

Conversely, games like these can, either by pure coincidence or developer oversight, boil down to a boring, mundane to-do list that's about as fun as data entry and only half as exciting. Go here, do this. Go there, do five of these. That sort of thing. Sandbox games have to find the balance between having a diverse selection of activities available at all times, and having too much to do, leaving the player overwhelmed with options. I have played games that fit into both of these categories, and we'll be looking at some comparables between them today.

The first thing that we need to establish is whether or not a game inherently boils down to a checklist, and if the developer seems to have placed enough care in the game design to avoid this trapping of the genre. The short answer to that one is it's all down to personal preference. A game I mention here as having a boring checklist could come off as the best sandbox game ever to someone else and to them is a shining example of what the genre is, could be, and will become. So bear in mind I'm not trying to hate on your favourite sandbox here.

With that in mind, let's start proper with a game I am currently playing through for the second time, and as a result have an idea of what to expect later with some of the side activities: Grand Theft Auto V. I've already seen pretty much all of what Los Santos has to offer last time I played this game for the Xbox 360. However I am aware that new events have been added, though I haven't quite been able to confirm if any of them work into earning the 100% completion achievement, known as 'Career Criminal'.

What I do know is Rockstar have had many years making open-world titles and honing their craft to a point that they make some of the most engaging sandbox experiences I've ever played. I can say that safely, after having played both Grand Theft Auto IV and V to completion on the Xbox 360. While at some point you may need to break out a checklist to make sure you're not missing an activity, you're not bringing out the list to see how many random events or side missions you need to complete before the game is done and you can move on.

Oddly enough, or not depending on your view of these franchises, it's another name in big, open-world sandboxes that have some of the worst, grindy, checklist-requiring sandboxes I've seen in quite a while. Assassin's Creed IV was a game I was never sure if I would come to like alongside some of the others in the series. A lot of it stems from being the first time a game went back in time from a previous entry and made a whole game out of one set of side missions from the previous game I didn't much care for into an entire game.

What came the next year, Assassin's Creed Unity, aside from its missing NPC faces, botched release and other technical problems, had one of the worst sandboxes I've ever seen. Getting around Revolution-era Paris wasn't the hard part, however trying to prioritize the collectibles were. To give some context, AC games usually have some sort of chest as a collectible hidden in-game. Sometimes they are guarded, most of the time they have some either currency reward or other useful in-game item. In this sense, the chests in Unity were the same as previous ones.

Somewhere along the way in development, it was decided to change this model to four different types of chests, often on top of each other on the world map. Unfiltered, this made the world map nearly unusable. Along with everything else that is also on the map, it made for a cluttered mess that did mark a low point in a generally high-flying series, that just happens to still be on hiatus at the moment, though a new entry in the series is expected later this year. Expect a piece or two on that subject in the coming months.

Also, this won't be the last on this topic as well. I know I have more I can go on about regarding sandboxes, how to do them right, and how sometimes they shouldn't be done at all. Coming up on Friday: a Progress Report.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 28 March 17 at 02:50 | There are 4 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
26
PermalinkProbable Definite Plans
Plans are strange things. Often they can and will go off without a hitch and no problem whatsoever, and other times said best-laid plans get chucked out the nearest window at the first opportunity and you're effectively flying blind. This is one of those times. This blog was meant to go up yesterday, but due to circumstances that were in my control, it's instead going up now, a day later. It's odd this happened with this blog, given the subject matter I talk about below. Almost fitting that this one gets released a bit late for those fans of irony.

Whenever I plan an event, I try to take as many precautions as I possibly can to ensure the event goes off not only at the right time, but without any technical limitations or other factors that may impede said event. However since I am not able to control all factors around me, I always stipulate that dates cannot be set in stone until the event has passed, at which time we can definitively say when it happened, exactly how it happened, and if it was any degree of successful.

Which is what brings us to today's topic: upcoming blog events and when they will happen. I have more concrete information for those events, and not just because I spent all week re-playing Grand Theft Auto V on the Xbox One. Seriously, I'm almost 20 hours in and am only at just past the halfway mark for story missions, not even counting the side content. That one will take a while to complete. Though it should be able to generate some nice Progress Report content along the way. I'll try not to do them all the time, just enough that there is always interesting information.

As longtime readers of this blog may know, this May will see the third running of Crappy Game Week. This year was going to have a majority of the games (well, 2 out of the 3 games played) falling under the genre of 'superhero action-adventure'. However that idea was scrapped in favour of spinning that off into its own event. In the meantime, here is the most current plan for Crappy Game Week 2017, running from May 29 - June 2. Being this close to the event, these plans shouldn't change without something huge getting in the way.

-Battleship
-Cars 2
-Superman Returns

This might be the running order, or I may move the order around so the shortest game gets done first so I'm not rushing through anything. I do want to save as much time as possible for a longer title, or a title that I'm more concerned will take more time than listed on-site. The last thing I want is to get to the end of the week and still have most of a game to play, with only a few hours to do it and before a Micro-Review is due. While I could give myself the weekend to work on the review, I'd rather have it up for the Friday blog.

The other event I want to give more detail on is Mythology Month 2017. Last time we touched on this upcoming event I was unsure about the date for the event, however certain of the games. It was brought to my attention that there may be enough games for a second Mythology Month either 2018 or later, and it's always nice to have more options on the table. For more information on the games I'll be playing in that month-long event, see this blog from February 10, 2017 where I introduce the event and go into some depth thee as well.

With all that out of the way, I have a date for the event. Originally the plan was to hold Mythology Month after Drunk Gaming Night 5, but since that date is by far the most subject to change, Mythology Month is getting its own set date. It has been decided the event will run through the month of August. Just far enough from Crappy Game Week and enough room at the end of the year to fit another event in, if the right situation presents itself, and you never know what might become of that in time.

In the meantime, there are other reasons to stick around as well. I finally found and purchased a game I've been looking for in stores for well over a year, not wanting to pay the online prices. Needless to say they are marked up slightly because of this game's rarity and age. Keep an eye out for it in the coming weeks, since I really should break up the endless hours playing Grand Theft Auto V with something else, ideally on another console as well. With that said, there should be a Progress Report on that one in a week or so as well. Stay tuned.

Coming up on Monday: a blog on time.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 26 March 17 at 03:32 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
20
PermalinkSolitary Confinement
Something I used to do, and indeed don't do much anymore, is list off when I've acquired a bunch of new games that will be making their way to my console sometime before the eventual heat-death of the known universe. In the last few months I've discovered a new video game store not far from where I live, and it's packed to the brim with both new games and hardware, along with one of the most impressive displays of retro games and consoles outside of private collections.

I've been to this store a couple of times now, and even just looking at the Xbox 360 stock, it seems to rotate enough that this store should always contain something interesting. Even outside of that, it's the only game store I know of that has an admittedly non-functional Atari Jaguar in-store display unit. The kind that has the console sealed in a case but visible, with two usually-mangled and chewed controllers playing a game or some demos on an ancient CRT monitor. I say non-functioning, but the unit could also just not be plugged in.

Like all game stores these days, this one has been infested with Funko Pop figures, a bunch of game-branded items that did not need to be game-branded, and most interestingly of all, an active rentl service. You could walk into this store right now and rent a new copy of Fallout 4, Final Fantasy XV, and other such Xbox One and PS4 titles. At this point there is likely a small selection of Nintendo Switch items for sale or rent.

Ranting aside, you came here for a list of games, and here is said list of games. This is the net result of a few trips to the local EB Games / GameStop and this independent store. As always, no word on when these games will be played, blogged about and reviewed, but it will happen one day. Some of these games come from the Games with Gold program, as you can likely tell from some of the titles you've downloaded to your console in the last few weeks,

-LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
-Remember Me
-Bionicle Heroes
-The Saboteur
-Jimmie Johnson's Anything with an Engine
-Bionic Commando
-Layers of Fear
-Project CARS
-Heavy Weapon

Microsoft Solitaire Collection Micro-Review: It's funny how things change when you try to write content ahead of time. This was originally meant to be a Progress Report stemming from being on the cusp of another achievement, specifically 'Go for the Silver', at the time being one medal away and 9/12 for Bronze Medals. After I wrote that up and stored it away, I decided I'd had enough of that game, went and earned the remaining achievements. So here's the review.

It's Solitaire. If you don't know how to play the card game closely related to computer games outside of Hearts, this isn't the review for you. For those of you that know, this version contains five Solitaire games, including two I'd never heard of until this game, Pyramid and Tripeaks. Quite where I've been to miss those is anyone's guess. You can also play each with different sets of rules and timers to suit your fancy. I said as much in the Windows 8 review: it's the definitive Solitaire experience on Windows.

The Daily Challenge progress not transferring over is the only real fault I can level at the game, which is far more of a personal issue and probably a glitch to some extent as well. The games all act as they should, there are no known glitches or bugs in either a positive or negative light that influence gameplay. Accessing old Daily Challenges does require changing your computer's clock, which for me resulted in limited internet access during those times, but that's a very small matter that can be worked around either with another computer or tablet.

Verdict: still the single best Solitaire experience around, now with an extra 1000 free Gamerscore to to be earned. 9/10

Coming up on Friday: some definitive plans for the summer.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 20 March 17 at 16:10 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
17
Permalinkde Blog
The Achievement Research Project 2017 is still ongoing. In the last two weeks the project hit the unofficial halfway point. Basically when you sort achievements down to just physical games on the Xbox 360, you get around 330 pages of results, around 30 of which are Japanese-only games I can't read or understand, so those ones will be left out. Before this week I was around page 160, since it can take anywhere from 7-20 minutes to process one full page. Progress was steady, and since there is no real due date for the project completion, it slowly soldiered on.

This is when the project hit a rather major snag that will drastically increase the amount of time required to complete this project. To sort the games, I first sorted by platform (Xbox 360) and title type (Games Only). Sort by achievement in alphabetical order and away you go. Up until this point there were different sort fields for Xbox 360, Windows, XBLA, and Xbox One. However sometime in the last week one of those sort fields was removed: the XBLA sort field. This now means the XBLA games like Minecraft and World of Tanks are sorted alongside physical titles like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4.

This now means that every time a common achievement name comes up, extra care has to be taken to ensure the games I'm counting are indeed physical games and not XBLA games sneaking in. If I was any further back in this whole process, ideally less than 100 pages in, I would consider starting over and including XBLA games into the fold. It might even sway the results and make a new top ten. However I'm over 150 pages in (now over 180 pages in since the number of entries I need to process has swelled considerably) and I'm going to continue as this process began: physical Xbox 360 games only.

The main result is this process will take quite a bit longer to complete, and now will make it much harder to do follow-up research into XBLA titles or any other medium. Let's just hope TA doesn't remove the Windows sort field as well before all is said and done otherwise this project may never be completed. To have all the research done and for it all to mean nothing would be truly a tragic end to all of this work. In less depressing news, here's a Micro-Review for a game I am thoroughly burned out on and is likely one of the most colourful games you will ever see:

de Blob 2 Micro-Review: Game consoles today are littered with the same dull industrial shooters of varying shades of grey and brown. When a game comes along that throws all of those conventions out of the window, it's worth your time to sit up and take notice. This is what I did with de Blob 2, and for the most part the game delivered on its promise of vibrant colour, but somewhat fell flat on the gameplay front. You play as Blob, an amorphous mass of variable size and colour, set out to restore said colour to the world.

This game is all about visual style. You absorb paint, and proceed to colour the entire world around you, from buildings to vehicles and even local plant life. You are restoring colour as fast as it's being taken away by Comrade Black and the Inkies. The game will endear itself with its lively music and visuals and compelling narrative. It's a shame then that the gameplay doesn't hold up across all 12 levels. As diverse as the levels are, the core gameplay gets repetitive and somewhat boring toward the end. Even adding temporary power-ups does little to break it up.

One thing that surprised me the most was how stingy this game is with achievements. Only 25 available, however a majority of them only come at the end of the game, assuming you found all collectibles, freed every civilian, earned S-rank everywhere and didn't purchase a single power-up. Good luck with that last one on the last few levels. Despite this, the game is beautiful visually, and even available on your Xbox One through backward compatibility. The game has an incredible original music selection, with three tracks available for each level and an unlockable fourth track as well.

Expect to spend anywhere from 20-30 hours on this game across multiple sittings. I found I could only handle two levels at absolute maximum per day, since to get all collectibles you need to use an admittedly-excellent text guide. Your mileage may vary and you may be able to play half the game in one day. More power to you if you can. Otherwise, take this one slow, enjoy the atmosphere and restore colour to the world of Raydia. Full disclosure: the title for this entire blog came from my friend and co-op partner petranat. Go check out her blog!

Verdict: a truly unique concept, held back by repetitive gameplay and unnecessary time limits on most levels. 6/10

Coming up on Monday: a long-term project completed, again.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 17 March 17 at 18:33 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
13
PermalinkOff the Plane.. Again
When a new console is released, there is a period of time where both consoles are available, along with games for both platforms. What will often happen to said games is they are released for both consoles at the same time, to get sales from both early adopters of the new console and holdouts who prefer the older box. Playing the same game across multiple platforms in this sense is known as double-dipping, which is the topic for today. The first of many games I'll be double-dipping on my card.

Up to now I've never double-dipped on a game, despite having more than a few titles available to me to do just that. As with many games I either wouldn't normally play and certainly wouldn't spend money to get, these often come to us from the continually-excellent Games With Gold program, which as far as I can see has no sign of slowing down or stopping. Taking a quick glance at my gaming to-do list, the double-dips include Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and Thief. While ACIV has already been completed on the Xbox 360, the One version was free a while back so I snapped it up.

The walkthrough for Thief is still in progress as of this writing so I'll be waiting on that one to get completed and posted on the site before I jump into that one. I played the opening chapter of the game with a friend way back when that game launched in 2014, so I somewhat know what to expect and know that a walkthrough will be all but required to get all of the game's achievements with as little pain and re-treads as possible. Once the walkthrough is up, I'll plan an ETA for both titles and when they can expect to be played by me.

The only reason I began this specific double-dip process when I did was a carry-over service from last-gen was ending and I wanted to take advantage of it before it was gone, saving me many hours in the process. I've been sitting on this game for well over a year now, waiting for the requisite number of hours to become free in my schedule. It's taken some time, and even more pushing from the game publisher due to the aforementioned cutoff, but I got in mere hours before the service was gone, after much worrying over whether the game would install and update in time given my less-than-great internet service.

Grand Theft Auto V was originally released in September 2013, with the GTA Online service getting a buggy release one month later. Anyone trying to access GTA Online back then will recall how it barely worked. The enhanced edition of the game released in November 2014 for the Xbox One, and with it came the opportunity to transfer your character and their respective online progress, rank, and assets to the new version of the game and continue to use them on the new version of the game. The availability to do this ended on March 5th, so naturally this was the day I used it.

Grand Theft Auto V First Thoughts: First Thoughts on a game I haven't played since May 2015 on a different platform. Yeah, that's a bit of a weird one, but here we go. Considering this blog wasn't active or even an idea back in 2013 and wouldn't be started for another year, consider this my First Thoughts for both versions of the game. The first thing to notice in the game is it's much nicer-looking than the previous version. I'm sure it was the best the Xbox 360 could do, but the One has that much more power, meaning everything looks and plays much smoother. I haven't explored the entire map yet, but I plan to soon to get the full experience.

First-person mode is weird. While it's fun to run and jump around, fling yourself into walls, pedestrians, and oncoming traffic, actually playing the game with this new perspective doesn't quite work. You don't realize how much you miss peripheral vision while driving until you don't have it. This is likely a graphic limitation, but the side and rearview mirrors don't work in the vehicles. Again, you don't realize how much you miss something until it's gone. It also feels like vehicles are more sensitive in first-person mode, but that may just be me.

It would appear that new activities were also added to this enhanced edition. The first one I noticed was a photography contest available to Franklin, and stock car races available to Trevor, though the latter may be available to everyone. Michael likely has a unique activity to the enhanced edition, but it hasn't been found yet. As of this writing, I've only completed two missions for Trevor and am relatively early into the game yet. There is still a lot to explore, find and do. I'm sure there is a full list of extra content and I'll stumble across most of it in time.

Coming up on Friday: a Micro-Review many frustrating hours in the making.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 13 March 17 at 16:06 | There are 4 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.