Posts tagged Video Games

thief4

Book/Game Review: Thief 4

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Dual Review: Thief [4] / The Art of Thief  by Eidos / Titan Books

Review by Prof. Jenn

It has taken me a long time, readers, to finally sit down and compose this review, and I’ll tell you why: it’s because I don’t feel like I’ve played through enough of Thief 4 (aka Thief) to give an expert’s opinion fairly. Even when I’m sent a book to review that I can’t stand, I make it a point to read it in its entirety before writing the review for Nerds in Babeland. I feel it’s only fair to the artists involved for me to do so.

It has been so long though, readers, that I want to tell you my thoughts about the game and also the art book that Titan Books were good enough to send me to look at as an accompaniment, and I want to tell you also why I’ve decided to do so with the game unplayed completely. Let’s start with the book, The Art of Thief:

 

The Book

This is not the first time I have encountered a gorgeous coffee table style art book from the folks at Titan, and they really do a good job at it (even of franchises I have no interest in–remember the visual companion to Dark Shadows?). This art book, showing the many facets of the art for Thief 4 (not for any of the earlier games in the series unfortunately), is actually what’s making me want to persevere and continue the game after I have lost interest. It includes character design and development, concept sketches of character, loot, settings and weaponry and often shows said art from beginning brainstorm through to 3D rendering. Another very cool perk included in this book is the many storyboards laid out for various scenes from the game. It’s making me want to pick the game up again, just so I can continue to play to see those cool steampunky prostitutes and Garrett’s fence, Basso. He looks so cool! Which brings me to:

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The Game

Now I am a huge fan of the Thief games. Huge. The first two, beyond being revolutionary as far as gameplay (the Thief franchise is widely touted as the originator of the sub-genre of the FPS called Stealth. Many call Deus Ex the original FPStealth, but it’s really Thief. But I digress), but offers an incredibly rich world, with an interactive story so well written it actually kind of pisses me off. So I know very well how Garrett lost his eye (a visceral cutscene I’ll never forget), what it was replaced with and what that does to make his vision special. The warring factions of Hammerites (later scarier maniacal Mechanists) and their opposites the Pagans (who can forget the creepy giggle as one navigated through Constantine’s mansion), and of course the enigmatic and ultimately political Keepers. I know the world well, and love it, especially our POV protagonist, Garrett. I’ve even written fan fiction for this world. Wow, I just admitted that online…

Having said that, I am not one to immediately go all Star-Wars-Fan-on-Episode-One when I learn the franchise I love is getting a reboot. I mean, it can work very well–witness the new Star Trek movies. Even with a different studio–I mean, Thief 3 wasn’t quite the rich stellar game its predecessors were, but it was a solid Thief game, firmly rooted in that universe, Garrett was himself and there exists in Thief 3 probably the most terrifying horror level of any game ever. Yes, I include Limbo. I mean EVER. (Read about the Cradle level here.) At the end of Thief 3 we notice our intrepid protagonist acquiring a young (we assume) apprentice. So when I saw that in Thief 4 it begins with Garrett and his now young adult aged apprentice bickering, I thought “huzzah.” 

But this reboot is a pale, watery thing compared to the scotch that was the other Thief games. Where Garrett was cynical and world-weary, here he is petulant. Where he reluctantly found his heart of gold, here he’s just uncharacteristically a softie. Where before we had knowing banter with real parental strife between him and the Keepers, now his apprentice Erin whines and bitches and isn’t actually well trained enough to be his apprentice in the first place. And speaking of Keepers:

There are no Keepers in this new rebooted world. No Hammerites, no Pagans. The City is a lovely-dingy steampunk place to live, similar to how it was, but the old fantasy world this is not. This more like post-apocalyptic Detroit than the rich world Thief comes from. Real-world swear words have replaced the “taffer” of the old dialect, and Garrett dresses less like a member of a Lieber-esque thieves’ guild than an emo early aughts Goth.

The retrofitting of his special eye and thereby powers of special sight is a weak version of the mechanical eye he used to wear, designed by megalomaniac Karras. Why was the eye story changed?

And without the warring factions, the religious zealotry, the Keepers, the burricks even (we get a nod to them in the name of a tavern), we are left with a bitter protagonist with no reason for his bitterness. We get whiny teenaged goths we don’t care about enough to quest for, let alone take on their persona through the story. My point is: the reboot of the world has diminished the world irreparably.

As far as gameplay goes, the designers have made a mistake in not taking a lesson from those games that have surpassed Thief on the console. The controls are not intuitive, Garrett doesn’t have all the skills he would have as a thief of his caliber (why didn’t Eidos take a hint from the Assassin’s Creed folks?) and the simplest quests are difficult to follow based on the way the game is set up as far as objectives go. This game needs to be either a) a very open ended sandbox like an AC IV or heck even a Skyrim, or b) much more streamlined and story-driven than it is. Right now it doesn’t know which it wants to be, and, that coupled with all the richness stripped out of the world, I’d just as soon be a pirate with Assassin’s Creed than a thief with my beloved Thief game. And that makes me sad.

Now remember: I have admitted I haven’t played Thief [4] very far. The reason is because of the above reasons, mainly: Garrett is no longer a likable POV character, the world isn’t as rich and interesting, and the controls are annoying. Maybe it gets brilliant later on. Maybe I’ll find out.

Maybe I won’t.

 

Bottom Line: if you’re a Thief fan or a steampunk enthusiast, the art book is for you. If you’re not, check out the otherworldly beauty of it anyway–you’ll probably want it on your coffee table, regardless. If only the game had more than just surface prettiness. Skip the game and play Bioshock Infinite.

 

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Valve are the Masters of Manipulation

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imgresSteam’s Annual Summer Getaway Sale started on July 11th this year (great birthday present to me!) and already Mr. Doc and I have amassed 14 new PC games, the majority of which we haven’t even downloaded yet. And the sale doesn’t end until July 22nd. Both of us are trying our hardest to resist, but every day something goes on sale that we just can’t live without.

A recent article on attackofthefanboy.com called “,” details five key ways that Valve draws gamers to their sales: artificial scarcity, psychological reactance, a bias towards completion, commitment and consistency, and random rewards.

Artificial scarcity/psychological reactance: Valve knows that gamers love sales and by having different sales both everyday and flash sales that last only eight hours they instill a sense of fear that the games on sale might not be on sale again. For instance, July 17th’s sales featured Deus Ex: Human Revolution for $2.99. That is 85% of its usual price of $19.99. As Mr. Doc said, “Deals like that just don’t happen very often!” The radical price drops and time limits on sales cause many gamers to purchase more games than they usually would.

A bias towards completion: Gamers like to finish things. It’s the reason I have over 250 hours invested in Skyrim and Mr. Doc has over 1000 hours invested in Final Fantasy VII. Valve offers Steam Achievements for purchasing games during the Summer Sale and this year they have started offering trading cards. Each game awards cards which in turn fill up a progress bar. We gamers love to fill up progress bars only to have it start again each time it fills up.

Commitment and consistency: Gamers tend to be consistent. Most of us have a certain type of game that we enjoy more than others. Me, I like Role Playing Games or RPGs, preferably large ones like the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. Mr. Doc, on the other hand, loves his First Person Shooters like Call of Duty, Halo, or Borderlands. Valve recognized this and every eight hours they have a community poll. Three games are offered for voting on and the one with the most votes will be featured in the next flash sale. Voting on a game that wins sends a sense of commitment to those gamers who voted for it and they are more likely to purchase it while it’s on sale.

Random rewards: The tie in to all these is that Valve knows gamers like to be rewarded. It’s like perks in Fallout New Vegas, you only get one every other level but they change with each level up and with your play style so you never really know what perks you’ll be able to choose. By picking the games on sale at random, Valve is ensuring that gamers check back every so often to see what’s on sale. Everyday at 1 PM EST Mr. Doc pulls up Steam’s website and we Oooo and Ahhh over what’s on sale that day. He votes in every community choice poll and has purchased at least two different games that he voted for that have won the poll.

Valve is a master of manipulation and the internet is rife with memes featuring the Steam Sale. I would like to offer this gem from the Attack of the Fanboy article in closing as I feel it sums up my feelings exactly.

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The Art of Bioshock Infinite Review

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Bioshock Infinite was released last week, bringing a new, exciting chapter of the hugely popular game series for fans to obsessively play for days at a time. I, myself, am a fan of the franchise and when I heard about a book release accompanying the game which would outline the artistic development involved, I was thrilled to have the chance to review it. The Bioshock games are known for their complex story lines and tormented characters, but I think the real core of these games is in the mind blowing art work. I still remember my first time watching the opening sequence for Bioshock. I felt real terror and fear living the experience of sinking on a huge ship, watching people and flames plummet in to the ocean around me as my character sank deeper and deeper. Then, the elation of discovering Rapture, the city under the sea, glowing and majestic, yet abandoned and incredibly eerie at the same time. Bioshock has never settled for less than ‘holy shit amazing’ in the visual department and by the looks of The Art of Bioshock Infinite, this latest installment is no different. songbird2

The introduction to the book is by creative director Ken Levine and he explains that the process of developing a video game on the level of Bioshock Infinite is far more complicated and time consuming than some may assume. ” the process of making anything—and certainly an Irrational game—is grueling and exhilarating, exciting and depressing, thrilling and scary as hell. For every idea that makes it into the game, a dozen are put against the wall and shot.” This book puts this process on display for you, showing the character and world development, sketch by sketch. Hundreds of pieces of art and ideas were thrown out in the editing machine, but no less impressive. It becomes obvious right away that the artists who created this new Bioshock universe toiled endlessly to achieve the perfect effects on every single detail of every puzzle piece that eventually became Bioshock Infinite.

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I found the notes explaining the process behind the art development as intriguing as the pictures themselves. To get a glimpse in to the great care and immense thought behind every detail in this game feels like peeking in to someone’s window and watching them create. Someone with more artistic chutzpah in their little finger than I could achieve in a lifetime. Watching the floating city of Columbia come to life in these paintings and sketches is so much fun, but for me the best part was being witness to the birth and growth of the enigmatic characters of Bioshock Infinite. Booker DeWitt, Elizabeth and Songbird are focused on heavily, their personality and story details being just as imperative as their styles and physical make up. Readers are invited to observe the ideas behind Sky-Hooks, airships and the menacing, powerful Heavy Hitters.

The Art of Bioshock Infinite is a beautiful, enlightening lesson in video game development. It’s not quick, easy, simple or lacking in sacrifice. At least not a game on this level of quality and brilliance. I haven’t actually played Bioshock Infinite yet, but reading this book makes me feel like I already have an intimate knowledge of the people and creatures (or machines) that make up the city of Columbia. Whether you’re a fan of the Bioshock franchise or just a lover of artwork, this book is definitely satisfying and worth having on your shelf. It’s been a real treat for me and has only increased my desire to experience Bioshock Infinite for myself.

Prof. Jenn’s TED talk

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Have you nerdy babes heard about the local versions of the TED talks that take place in universities everywhere? Well I recently had the opportunity to apply to speak at TEDxDU (University of Denver), one of the schools where I teach. I didn’t make the roster this year, but I thought you might get an intellectual kick out of seeing my proposal–this is what I would have talked about had I been chosen. Let me know what you think of these ideas. 🙂   ~Prof. Jenn

Clipped from: prezi.com (share this clip)

 

Video Game & Movie Releases – November

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Sorry for the delay, I suck! Below is a list of upcoming movie and video game release dates to keep your eyes on, and wallets handy for.

Video Game Releases
Nov 2 – MAG: Escalation — PS3
Nov 2 – GoldenEye 007 — Wii, DS
Nov 2 – Hoard — PS3
Nov 2 – Auditorium — PS3, 360
Nov 2 – James Bond 007: Blood Stone — PC, 360, PS3, DS
Nov 2 – Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 — PS3, 360
Nov 2 – God of War: Ghost of Sparda — PSP
Nov 4 – Kinect — 360
Nov 4 – Kinect Sports — 360
Nov 4 – Kinectimals — 360
Nov 4 – Kinect Adventures — 360
Nov 4 – Your Shape: Fitness Evolved — 360
Nov 4 – Dance Central — 360
Nov 9 – Karaoke Revolution Glee — Wii
Nov 9 – John Daly’s ProStroke Golf — 360
Nov 9 – Call of Duty: Black Ops — PC, PS3, 360, Wii, DS
Nov 16 – Dance Dance Revolution — PS3
Nov 16 – NBA Jam — PS3, 360
Nov 16 – EA Sports Active 2.0 — PS3, 360, Wii
Nov 16 – Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Hero Gauntlet — PS3, 360, Wii, DS
Nov 16 – Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood — PS3, 360
Nov 16 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — PC, PS3, 360, Wii, DS
Nov 16 – Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit — PC, PS3, 360, Wii
Nov 18 – Zumba Fitness — 360, Wii
Nov 23 – Splatterhouse — PS3, 360
Nov 23 – Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom — PS3, 360
Nov 23 – Michael Jackson The Experience — Wii, DS, PSP
Nov 23 – Crazy Taxi — PS3, 360
Nov 27 – Gran Turismo 5 — PS3
Nov 29 – Golden Sun: Dark Dawn — DS
Nov 30 – Epic Mickey — Wii
Nov 30 – Nail’d — PC, PS3, 360

Movie Releases
Nov 5 – Megamind
Nov 5 – For Colored Girls
Nov 5 – Due Date
Nov 10 – Morning Glory
Nov 12 – Skyline
Nov 12 – Unstoppable
Nov 12 – Cool It
Nov 12 – Helena from the Wedding
Nov 12 – Tiny Furniture
Nov 19 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Nov 19 – Heartless
Nov 19 – Me Too
Nov 19 – Nothing Personal
Nov 19 – Queen of the Lot
Nov 19 – The Next Three Days
Nov 19 – White Material
Nov 24 – Burlesque
Nov 24 – Faster
Nov 24 – Kawasaki’s Rose
Nov 24 – Love and other Drugs
Nov 24 – Tangled

How to Train Your Nerdlin’

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My 6 ½ year old is a gamer, he has an older Xbox 360, a Wii a PS2 and a computer in his room. In addition to these he has a DSi and an iTouch. Why on earth does a 1st grader need all of this you ask? The answer is that I’m selfish and I got sick and tired of sharing video game time with him.

Yes we do some co-op playing and he really enjoys watching me play Mario Galaxy (1 and 2) but if we didn’t have the newer Xbox set up in the living room while he has the Wii (his system of choice) set up in his bedroom I would never get a chance to play my games and would be stuck either watching Lego Star Wars/Indian Jones or listening to him whine about wanting his turn.

Every parent has their own style and I don’t think that any ONE style is correct. I chose to let my child have a TV and video games in his room, you can call me a bad parent for this, I don’t really care. I know that his life is more than TV & video games, we read (books AND comics, he’s a mini geek what do you expect), play ball in the yard and ride his bike.

There is one thing that irks me though. I have always sworn my son would never be “that kid” (sorry if I offend any of you who’s child is “that kid”) you know the one, the kid who has his face shoved into a handheld game system everywhere he goes, the grocery store, family gatherings, walking from the street to the car, at the aquarium, zoo, etc. So far I have been fairly successful at setting the limits on this. If his DSi or iTouch leave the house he is limited to using them on longer car rides only, that if he gets stuck I don’t want to hear it because I’ll get car sick if I try and play while in the car. And he knows that if at any time, at home or on a car ride, someone speaks to him and he doesn’t reply because he is too engrossed in the game it will be taken away for some amount of time.

But then I stop and think; am I being a hypocrite? I CONSTANTLY have my iPhone in my face as I’m walking around, and I mean constantly. I’m on twitter, facebook, checking emails, playing Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies. Maybe I should start following my own rules before he wises up and points it out to me.

I really enjoy having a child with the same interests as I do. It’s so much fun having someone who is just as excited about a new Doctor Who episode as I am, or watching him experience the magic that is Star Wars for the first time. It’s GREAT having an excuse to buy those nerdy toys that I’ve convinced myself I’m “too old” to buy. But I’m NOT sharing my video game time, unless it’s my husband, and that is another story entirely.

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Fallout New Vegas Review Part the Second

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Fallout New Vegas Review Part the Second

I arrived in Primm and was immediately set upon by some very mean people. (I won’t say who so as not to really spoiler anything) Exploring Primm was fun, but ultimately what I was looking for was farther on. After another hour or so of gameplay I finally made it to the Strip of New Vegas.

I was lucky enough to approach the Strip at night, so all the casinos were lit up, and it was pretty impressive. To get into the Strip you have to either have 2,000 caps, a passport or a science skill high enough to hack the robot guard. I went the easy route and paid my way in. Walking through the gate I was bombarded by ridiculous amounts of neon and the sounds of The Chairman singing “Blue Moon.” I was in heaven.

In real life I’m not much of a gambler. When I finally set foot in casino(whenever that may be)I will likely spend about 10 bucks on slot machines and that’s it. But in New Vegas? I went high roller. And won most of my money back. I ended up only losing 100 caps to the blackjack table.

Wandering the Strip was kind of surreal, I’ve never been to the real Vegas so I can’t make any real comparisons but I felt kind of overwhelmed like I imagine I will when faced with the real thing. The lights, and the random hookers and drunk soldiers really added to the atmosphere as well.

Visuals wise I was very impressed with the work Obsidian did. They outdid Fallout 3 and that was beautiful game. The lights of the Strip were one of my favorite things visually about the whole game. I was also super impressed by the sheer amount of side quests in this game. The number of side quests outnumbers the main quests 10:1 almost.

Next time, I talk about companions, sex, and the awesomeness that is Black Mountain Radio.

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TRON: Evolution Voice Actors Announced

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In preparation for the new TRON: Legacy movie coming in December, Disney Interactive Studios will be releasing a third-person video game named TRON: Evolution. The game, which combines elements of RPG and racing to allow for both single and multi-player options, will bridge the storyline between the original movie and the new one.

Heading the voice cast for Evolution will be original TRON actor Bruce Boxleitner along with television star Olivia Wilde (House). Joining them will be a number of familiar names from our television screens. Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) will voice Gibson, John Glover (Smallville) voices Abraxas, Nolan North (Port Charles/General Hospital) will voice Behemoth/Sentries/Blaze, and Terrence A. Carson (Living Single) voices Calchas. You can see a small video of the voice cast here. This will be the second voice acting role for Ackles, who garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews for his role of Red Hood/Jason Todd in the recent Batman release Under the Red Hood.

Are you excited for the new TRON movie? Will you be heading out to your nearest gaming store to pick up TRON: Evolution? I know I’m looking forward to hearing more from my favorite voice actors and am very interested to see how Ackles’ second venture out goes.

Photo Credit: Disney Interactive Studios

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Reminder-GeekGirlCon Silent Auction

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Don’t forget to support these gals! This week they’re auctioning off a “Video Game Voters Network” (size lg) tee and sealed copy of Aion The Assault on Balaurea. Game includes original Aion and The Assault on Balaurea and one month of game play!

Bids start at $15. Email bids to sponsor@geekgirl.com by 5pm tomorrow. Their facebook page has more details.

The group’s description in their own words:

Let’s face it, the male to female ratio at cons for panels is slightly off. Not necessarily on purpose…but it is. However, female fandom has shown that it is coming into it’s own as evidence of the San Diego Comic Con’s recent ‘Geek Girls Exist’ panel which had to turn people away at an already overpacked room. When you have fans fighting to get in to listen to women talk about their careers & fandom of the female realm, AND being up against the ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’ panel…there’s something to be said about that.

Not to mention the party, ‘GeekGirls & Friends TweetUp’, that had to turn people away after 200 guests packed Jolt N Joes in the San Diego Gaslamp district. We have Kristin, Jill & Andrea, 3 gals part of www.geekgirlsnetwork.com to thank for such an awesome gathering!

The best part was that the population of that panel & party was not necessarily all women! Guys appreciate what we gals do as well! We are into week 2 since idea conception and we’re constantly asked, “Can guys help too?” Of course you can! We are not trying to single you out of the equation of female fandom.

We know you love your girlfriends, wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, meemaws and/or friends who’ve taken their fandom to an all time high. Know that we haven’t forgotten about you guys! We are planning on having a GeekGirl Appreciation Stage as well!

But this con is for the ladies! What do you love? It’s not necessarily all froofy froo froo…it’s also badass, kickin butt stuff. Gaming. Movies. GeekMusic. Costuming. Comic Books. SciFi. Science. History. Technology. And maybe just a little bit of Roller Derby?

Why haven’t we had a GeekGirlCon yet? The idea of being a nerdy girl who’s interested in the same things as guys, isn’t a new concept…it just isn’t as widely celebrated. But that will all change with this event. Stay tuned. We’ll have some pretty exciting things coming your way.

Follow them on Twitter @GeekGirlCon for the latest up to date info!

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Fallout New Vegas, The Adventure Begins

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Fallout New Vegas Review Part I

Starting up New Vegas felt a little bit like coming home. I had the lights off, the TV turned up, and nothing to distract me from the mayhem that was sure to ensue. I sat patiently through the opening narration squeeing quietly when I heard that iconic phrase, “War. War never changes.” As a late comer to video games(I didn’t start playing them seriously until I discovered Oblivion in early 2008), I have never played the original Fallout games so I may not have quite the appreciation as some of the more serious fans, but I love it nonetheless.

When Fallout 3 came out, my husband and I were over-the-road truckers and at the time we were staying in Indiana for a few days. So we found a local Game Stop doing a midnight release and waited in the freezing cold to get this game that Mr. Doc had talked about for months before hand. At the time I was still leery of video games, and I didn’t understand what all the hype was about. I understand it now. The feeling I got when I started the game for the first time was something close to euphoria.

The beginning of the game was very reminiscent of Fallout 3. You chose the basics for your character, such as name, gender, and appearance. You then use a machine that looks like an old fashioned “Test Your Strength” game to assign point values to your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. skills. Finally Doc Mitchell gives you a series of Rorschach tests to determine your tag skills, which you can tweak to your liking. The result of the Rorschach tests also determines the parting gift you receive from the good Doctor.

I was given a Laser Pistol(one of my favorite weapons in Fallout 3)some ammo for said pistol, a Vault suit, and some stimpaks. Plus I raided his house, because it’s not stealing.

After leaving his house I explored the town of Goodsprings for a bit. Met up with Sunny Smiles(what a name)and received a Varmint Rifle. She “showed me how to shoot” and then took me Gecko hunting. The giant Geckoes made me laugh. The way they run is hysterical. We shot the Geckoes that were patrolling the wells for Goodsprings. I did a few more quests in Goodsprings before heading to Primm, looking for the men that shot me and left me for dead.

This concludes Part I of my review look for more in the near future.

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