Uh, The Head Just Fell Off… (My First Metal Earth Dino Experience)

Uh, The Head Just Fell Off… (My First Metal Earth Dino Experience)

Hello again friends,

Sorry it has been a bit longer than I had intended since the last update, I have been hit by the flu that is kicking butt around the country and have been laid up since Sunday trying to get over it. Good news though, it looks like I am on the mend and will be back to work/normal functionality tomorrow. Other good news, before I was consumed by the plague, I was able to completely finish the first of my 4 new Metal Earth dinosaur models: the Stegosaurus. If you remember this is the one I mentioned was driving me crazy when I did the bullet journal post (I have an update on that coming in the near future as well).

Before I go any further, please if you are reading this and you are one of those people who makes models all the time and have totally made better ones because the Metal Earth ones are so easy and bla bla bla, cool. I hear you. I do not have a ton of experience building these and there was definitely a learning curve involved and if hearing about my struggles is going to annoy you then please just skip this one. BUT if you feel like sharing some of your own experiences or any helpful advice in the comments please feel free, or if you have any pictures of your newest endeavor please drop them in the comments, I would appreciate seeing what some of the more skilled geeks are doing out there. Especially if you have made any of the Star Wars sets, because those look absolutely sick.

Now I guess it’s time to get back to my experience. When I talked about it last, I mentioned how much trouble I was having putting the model together because I could not get some of the tabs to big properly, regardless of what tool I tried to use. I actually went so far as to buy a $40 set of model building tools (Amy was not thrilled, but really I needed better model tools for my Warhammer figurines anyways so I’m going to go ahead and say they were not bought just for the dinos). Well, spoiler alert, I was having trouble with the small interior tabs because I had (stupidly) skimmed over a critical part of the directions and did not realize that those specific tabs I was struggling with were meant to be twisted instead of bent. This was something that took Amy all of 3 minutes to discover when she heard about my struggle and will now be my great shame for the rest of my model building career. Once I got that sorted, things kind of moved in fits and spurts. Some times things would be very intuitive and we would be making steady progress, only to hit some snag or find one piece that would just not work like it was supposed to in the instructions. But before I get into that I guess I should start at the beginning.

20180109_190311This is my Metal Earth laser cut 3d modelling kit

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These are the very tiny and breakable pieces of said modeling kit. Emphasis on breakable.

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This is a sample of the instructions that come to help you build your Stegosaurus. These are the fine line between your model looking like a sexy, sleek, shiny, metal dino or a mutated primordial monster. Read them. Love them.

        Look at all of those shiny, straight, thin, delicate pieces just waiting do be made into something beautiful. Fun fact, although you can use scissors to remove them from the frame, the instructions recommend that you carefully bend them back and forth until the little holder pieces snap so you don’t get weird hanging edges that look ugly. Also fun fact, they aren’t kidding when they say carefully, and if you don’t bend in exactly the right place it will be the actual body part that snaps, not the holder piece. It took Amy and I about 3 pieces to realize this error. But hey that’s what superglue is for right? It took about 45 minutes to get all of the pieces out of the frame and ready to be put together into our masterpiece. The pieces range in size from “wow that’s small” to “holy hell how am I supposed to pick this up it’s too small”. They are also surprisingly detailed and fun to look at.

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Example of “wow that’s small” pieces next to their friends “holy hell how am I supposed to pick that up it’s too small”. Tweezers in the background for size reference.

        Once you get the pieces out (provided that you read the instructions properly) putting them together isn’t that hard in the early stages. As long as you have places to grip with your tweezers, and a decent amount of patience it all comes together pretty well. The instructions are clear, and as the parts start coming together they look really cool.

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Cool

        There was one small problem with the instructions though, and unfortunately I forgot to take a picture for reference. But if you look at the photo above, you can see those neck bones that are bent away from the head about 30 degrees back towards the ribs. That is how the model looks in the pictures on the cover. That is how real stegosaurus neck bones are shaped according to all of the pictures I found online. The instructions however, say to bend the neck bones 30 degrees forwards towards the head. Now I would normally say to defer to the instructions, but… the picture on the front of the box, and all of the pictures on the website clearly show them bent the other direction. So this hung Amy and I up for awhile as we went back and forth on which one we thought was right, in the end we went for the bones bent back towards the ribs because it looked better. If I made the wrong call here then I’m sorry model, for turning you into a derposaurus. But I blame bad info. That was the only issue with the instructions though, other than that they were quite clear and easy to use as a guide. This got us through the next 2 hours or so, up until we were nearing about 80% completion on the entire thing. The pieces were easy to bend, fairly easy to work with, and we started to feel some real confidence building. Unfortunately, shortly after this point, right when things started looking really good, we started hitting some real snags.

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This shiny calm before the storm…

        If you look at that last picture, you may notice that as more pieces start getting added the places that you can grip and grab a section start to shrink. This becomes a real issue when it comes time to do things like put two big sections together. Not only that, but once you can actually get them to fit together properly, in order to bend the little tabs you have to put some torque on the frame itself which was then leading to bending in other places that bending should not have been occurring. I am sure this is just where experience with this type of model comes into play, but because this was our first one we were having absolute fits for the last 45 minutes of build time. These issues also meant that the further out a piece was from the center, the less secure it was overall. We would be working on one leg, trying to maneuver it into place and delicately grab a tab, only for the one we had just secured to fall off, which would then lead to some of the most beautiful and creative cursing I have heard come out of Amy’s mouth in quite some time. It all came to a head in the final dramatic moment, when we had finally completed the model and sat back to bask in our awesomesness, only to have the head fall off and clatter to the floor. We put it back on only to have a piece of leg fall off. Call us cheaters but it eventually because so frustrating that we just said “screw it gimme the superglue” and now our Stegosaurus is SECURE. Seriously I am pretty sure he could take a bomb impact at this point. So the job got done but I kind of got that feeling like when you would beat a  a difficult game but had to use a cheat code to get the job done.

Overall, I would say that the finished product was definitely worth the pain it was to build. I love dinosaurs, and I love having a metal model of one on my desk at work. It was a fun new experience, and I am certainly going to build the other 3 in the coming weeks. I think now that I have learned from some mistakes on this one the others should come together easier right? I would certainly recommend these to anyone who is a dinosaur or model enthusiast, although I would make sure that you have some very good tools for picking up and maneuvering small things. Also patience is critical. Maybe have some whiskey on hand. That’s something I am DEFINITELY going to have at the ready for the next one (which is saying something because I am pretty sure I am building that one at work), a few pieces every day. I’ll be sure to post the pictures of the others as they come together, and again if anyone reading this has experience in these or any other cool models that you want to show off please feel free to do so in the comments. Monday I will have another post up about the new hedgehog and towards the end of next week I will update progress on the bullet journal. Have a good weekend all!

The finished product. Be amazed… or at least mildly amused.

-CDL

 

The Year of the Bullet Journal

The Year of the Bullet Journal

Well here we are! Week 2 of 2018 and already a new project has fallen on my lap. This one is coming courtesy of Amy, who spent a good part of the end of the year going a little stir crazy looking for some type of new craft to do. After a few dozen hours on Pinterest she started talking to me about this thing they call a Bullet Journal. To be honest, at the beginning I was mostly just humoring her and looking at all of the pictures of these beautifully laid out and artfully designed pages in these journals and thinking I don’t have the time or the energy to put into something like that, but I was glad she found something new and artsy to sink her teeth into.

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        That’s usually how these things go, at which point she will spend the next week or so making some badass, beautiful thing while I kind of sit back and watch and at the end just get completely blown away by her talent level. It’s something we’ve done on repeat dozens of times at this point, but this time it was different. She kept asking me about it, and trying to get me to look at videos and pictures and kept trying to get me excited about making one for myself. As someone who has kept journals before and who always encourages others to write, I could see why SHE was excited about the prospect of starting one, but I wasn’t understanding why she was pushing me so hard to do so as well. Finally, after some serious side eye and various grumblings, she convinced me to watch a youtube video about it to show me what made the bullet journal so different from a normal personal journal. Fast forward about 10 minutes later and I was sold.

 

I have mentioned before about how I have a few goals for 2018, and the bullet journal has jumped to the top of the list. I see it not only as a goal in itself, but also as a gateway through which all of the other goals will flow. It is something that I have gotten pretty excited about over the last few days, especially since I see it being such an easy way to keep track of other benchmarks such as workout days, writing days, etc. as well as a way to cater to my obsessive need to keep a schedule. Granted, one of the reasons I warmed up to it so quickly was the fact that I could design one that was more functional than beautiful, so mine is not going to look anything like Amy’s. But that’s part of the Bullet Journal’s biggest draw: it is a reflection of the author and what their priorities are. Case in point, here is how we are both designing our Future Log sections.

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Mine

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Hers

        I have never seen a better visual representation of our relationship in my life. Seriously, can you tell which one of us is the talented one and which one of us won the relationship lottery? Anyways, obviously our journals are going to end up looking vastly different as the months go by, and even more so if we continue doing these down the road in the future. But even if that’s the case I think that they will help both of us in the exact ways we want them to. I’m especially looking forward to the habit tracker I put in mine last night.

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I know I look like a slacker now, but hopefully I’m gonna fill this bitch up with colors

        My plan going forward is to keep everyone up to date with how the bullet journal is coming along, and if it is having the impact on my day to day life that I hope it will. I will probably judge based on if it is helping me achieve my other goals that I am tracking, how much I actually use it day to day, and if it becomes tedious to try to maintain on a consistent basis. As of right now I am going on day 2 and have opened it a surprising number of times to add things for the upcoming month. I’ll probably wait for another week or so before giving another update to give the just-started-a-journal- enthusiasm to wear off and see where we are at. In the meantime I have another little mini project I have started this week: a laser-cut sheet metal dinosaur skeleton replica that has so far kicked my ass every time I have tried to mess with it. So look forward to hearing more on that saga in the coming days (I’m currently convinced it would be easier to find and build an actual dinosaur skeleton than get this bastard put together correctly). In the meantime I hope everyone else is having a good start to 2018, if you have ever looked into a Bullet Journal or any other journal like it please let me know any tips or advice you would have for a first timer in the comments. I would love to get some feedback!

-CDL

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Doomed Christmas

My Doomed Christmas

The Steam Winter Sale. Pride of the PC master race and devourer of free time. It is something that I am acutely familiar with, however since I have always been a console fanboy my whole life I had always been sitting on the wayside while my friends filled up their libraries with the past years most popular games at stupidly reduced prices. No more I told myself! Not this year! I have finally bought a PC setup capable of living up to the hype and I have been loving the hell out of it for the last 365 (Playstation will always have my heart though). So in between the holday events and family gatherings, I found myself with a couple of days free time before I needed to go back to work, and decided this was the perfect opportunity to dive in headfirst and really fill out my current steam collection.

I won’t go all the way into what I bought, because I plan on writing some more posts as I make my way through, but suffice to say, it was almost immoral how much fun I was having taking advantage of the sale. What I will say is one game that I purchased on a whim was the newest Doom. I still don’t completely know why I purchased it. First Person shooters have never been my thing, and the nostalgia factor wasn’t there because the only Doom I had ever played was Doom 3 back when I was in high school. The only thing I really remember about it was that I never finished it (which is pretty normal for me when it comes to shooters) but I remember that I certainly wasn’t impressed. Not to say that it was a bad game, I genuinely don’t think I got far enough into it to make an opinion like that, but I just know that there was nothing about it that stood out to me as special or engaging. I also grew up in a strict no violent video games household, which meant that Doom and Doom 2 were basically figments of my imagination. I did remember when doom launched last year though. I remember seeing the videos and being blown away by the pace and the violence of it all. Looked like a wonderfully bloody spectacle and the reviews were pretty kind, so it was added to my “maybe one day” list, and then kind of forgot about it. Enter the STEAM WINTER SALE. It was the last thing that I grabbed before wrapping up for the night, and I decided it would be the first thing I tried out in the morning.

I’ll be honest, when I first started playing, I expected to switch to something else within the first hour or so. That’s usually what happens when I have a few too many games and too much time on my hand, I basically start jumping from game to game every hour or so until I either run out of time or Amy comes to make me do stuff. So that’s what I fully expected to happen when I started playing Doom. 16 hours later (there was a short sleep break in there somewhere) I had finally defeated the armies of hell and saved Mars, although I’m not really sure why Mars was worth saving in the first place. But that’s beside the point. The point is once I started playing I was completely sucked into the frantic and fast combat to the point that I cannot remember ever enjoying another shooter this much.

I can tell what specifically it was that pulled me into the game so hard so fast. There was the fact that movement and jumping were so important to not getting killed. The fact that I always had enough ammo to keep shooting, but not enough that I was able to rely on a single weapon or even two or three primary weapons the whole time. The fact that the enemies were varied enough that I had to memorize and adapt depending on who was in front of me. There was so much to enjoy. Especially because my style when it comes to shooters was typically to be as tactical as possible. To find the most accurate semi automatic weapon and hang back, keeping enemies in front of me and at a distance while I pop off as many headshots as possible. Doom basically shit all over that from the beginning. You stop moving, you are dead. You try to take time to aim precisely, or specialize in just one type of gun? Also dead. It immediately forced me out of my comfort zone and made me play in a way that I enjoyed. I am sure if you are familiar with Doom or Quake or any of the other shooters in the genre, none of this is news to you, but for me it was a refreshing way to play.

Outside of the gameplay itself, one thing that stood out to me was the outstanding difficulty curve that meant for the first 40% of the game, I didn’t die once, but as I got farther and farther in, even though my skills were continuously improving, I started dying with more and more frequency. Although this would always leave to much cursing and gnashing of teeth, overall there was never a point when I felt the game was unfair or stacked in a way that meant I was SUPPOSED to die in a section. I could easily see how someone who was better at the games than I was, or even someone that made better decisions up until that point would have been able to breeze through. Aside from all of these details though, the one thing that stuck to me was that the game just got more fun the more the game began to stack enemies against you. I was never able to fall into a specific pattern meaning I was constantly improvising what I was doing on the fly, even if I played through the same section multiple times. It was fast, it was just difficult enough, and it was fucking FUN. The fun part being the main thing.

It isn’t often these days that a game can come out and genuinely surprise me. I know how annoying that sounds, and I don’t mean it as an ego thing. Really it’s just as I have gotten older and spent more and more time playing games, you generally get to know developers, or genres, or types that mean after a few minutes you start finding familiarity within the first few minutes of a game. That’s not always a bad thing. But I still miss that feeling of holy shit this game is going to be different. I remember the first time I played Ape Escape with a dual shock controller. The art style was similar to Spyro the Dragon, I had become pretty familiar with platforming RPG’s in general, but as soon as I plugged in the controller and discovered the possibilities of a second joystick. Your first 20 minutes into Dark Souls, when you face off against the asylum demon in the bleak landscape and realize that this is going to be something different. It is going to be a completely new experience. That’s what I felt when I played Doom this weekend. I have since moved on to the next one on my list, but I think Doom is going to have around for awhile. Maybe another playthrough on the hardest difficulty is in my future. Either way Doom was the standout hit of my Christmas season, and it’s all thanks to that glorious Steam Winter Sale.

-CDL

 

Happy 2018 From GeekGoneRogue!

Happy 2018 From GeekGoneRogue!

Hello again friends!

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything new. Truth be told as much as I want to I am not even sure that I have much to say right now. 2017 has been a bitch to people the world over, and I have certainly been no exception. For those that don’t know my wife and I live in Houston and unfortunately were victims in the Harvey floods. Our house flooded and we have relocated with relatives for the time being. Slightly before that, GeekGoneRogue.com was a victim of a hack and much of the material that we had put together in 2017 was lost. Such to say, between these two things I have not had much of a desire to write anything new lately, and if I am being completely honest I was slacking a bit prior to these events anyways. But, they sound like pretty good excuses so we are gonna ride with that.

So here’s to a better 2018! It can only go up from here right? I know today is technically the 2nd, but I give myself at least a week to really hone in my plans and resolutions for the upcoming year. This year I want to write more. I say that every year, and every year I do a little better but I have not been able to see it through to the end. I don’t think that’s going to happen this time. That’s not to say I will post every day, or even that I won’t have a lapse or two here or there, but I don’t think I am going to stop. I have made quite a few changes personally in the last 4 months and so far they have all stuck. So that’s it going forward. Keep up with the blog, and finish the book. Losing more weight would probably be resolution number 3. Since August I have been able to drop 35 lbs, and I have hopes for another 35 in the upcoming year. This is the one resolution that I think is going to be the easiest of the three, mostly because I have been able to really start to enjoy running and working out. They have become an important part of my daily routine and because of that it no longer actually feels so much like work to exercise. I never would have believed it 6 months ago. As a matter of fact, I used to fucking hate when people I knew that had worked out their whole lives used to tell me how easy or enjoyable exercising was. Surprise, surprise: they were at least partially right. I can still name about a dozen things that are technically more fun to do on a daily basis, but when combined with how good it feels to lose weight, and how well I sleep at night, I’ve officially been won over to team exercise. Time to get the t-shirt (Large this time instead of XL).

That’s all I have for you tonight. Starting tomorrow I will be back in full geek form, talking about a couple of games that really stuck out to me last year, as well as how happily surprised I was to pick up Doom this weekend as part of the winter steam sale. I played through the campaign in what felt like 12 hours straight and had a blast doing it. We will also look forward at some of the games and movies coming out this year that I can’t wait to play, and all the other normal GGR stuff. In the meantime, I hope everyone else is having a smooth start to the new year. I appreciate the readers who keep up with this blog, I promise it will be better this year!

-CDL

Breath of the Wild – It’s finally here!

Breath of the Wild – It’s finally here!

After four years of anticipation and hype, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has finally been released and I wasted no time before wasting all my time on it. All things must change or die out, and Zelda is no different, so before I definitively say whether or not this game is worth the price tag, let’s take a look at what’s new in this iteration. Continue reading “Breath of the Wild – It’s finally here!”

Dreadnought: Our First Impressions of the Closed Beta

        Hello out there GeekGoneRogue faithful! Today we are going to be taking our first look at the newly released Dreadnought Beta. This was a game that has kind of flown under the radar for me, I remember when it was first announced, however since then I had not followed it’s development or release all that closely. That was until this past weekend when I was given a Beta key by Stephen, one of our other writers. “It’s basically Mechwarrior but in space,” was the way that he described it to me. Well that was all it took, because you all know that I love the shit out of some Mechwarrior. Sure enough, as soon as I started playing I got that old school, team deathmatch Mechwarrior feel, and I haven’t stopped playing it since. It’s a solid first showing for the game, and it already has me chomping at the bit for more. With the perfect mix of measured, calculated combat and heavy hitting ships, it’s a game that should appeal to the sci-fi fans everywhere.

        My time with Dreadnought began as all of these games do: with the tutorial. Since it is in closed Beta stage at the moment, there are very few bells and whistles. You are a nondescript pilot learning how to fly a ship to a couple of random points on the screen. The first thing that struck me about these ships are the sheer mass they carry when they are moving. Don’t expect to be zipping through the skies all Wing Commander style, because graceful these ships are not. However, it’s actually a refreshing change of pace from many modern shooters out there today. Even in the smallest ships, you move slow. You have to be calculated and direct about where you want to go, because once you start heading that direction it’s going to be a bitch to try to go anywhere else. It takes some getting used to at first, but once you get the hang of it you start to appreciate the way you feel flying these behemoths. It’s called Dreadnought for a reason you know?

Floats like a walrus, stings like a tomahawk missile

        Once you figure out how to go from point A to point B, you get to start shooting. Each ship comes with 2 main weapons that you are able to toggle between on the fly. One is typically a long range, more precise shot with the other being an up close damage dealer. Truth be told I find myself relying on the longer range shot about 90% of the time. Other than that you begin to learn how to fire your “special ability” weapons. These are typically some type of missile or torpedo, along with a couple of defensive weapons such as anti-ballistic weapons. You are also introduced to your resource management for the game, which ends up being one of the most critical aspects of playing Dreadnought. Throughout the course of your matches, you find yourself switching between boosting your thrust, weapons, or shield in order to survive. You can only boost one at a time, and your energy reserves drain fast, which means you are constantly having to toggle them on and off depending on the situation unfolding before you. It’s not exactly a new premise in a flight combat game but it’s well done and adds another level of strategy to combat. Soon enough, you find yourself in a space battle with some pirates who conveniently attack you head on while your squad mates beef you up enough that you don’t just get your ass handed to you. Typical tutorial fare. Once you make it through that fight you are on your own. Hand holding is over, time to throw yourself into some true PVP.

        

Combat time!

        My first foray into combat was quick and boy was it painful. The one thing that they don’t really touch on during the tutorial is the fact that even though you feel like you are flying a giant tank, everyone else is too, and if you don’t cover your ass you get killed. Quickly. So after a first round of being nothing other than a team liability, I decided to try a more conservative approach to my fighting. I decided to pay more attention to the way the landscapes were laid out and wouldn’t you know it? Shooting lanes! Shortcuts! Ways to sneak around and flank your enemy! It’s like they thought things out or something… You get to learn the ships pretty quickly, you have your typical tank-esque Dreadnoughts and Destroyers, with plenty of armor and the firepower to match. There are also Corvettes whose job is to zip around and wreak havoc as best they can while trying not to get blasted out of the sky. These are the bane of the support ships, also known as the Tactical Cruisers. They are the healers of the fleet, able to repair and support the bigger ships around them, and they even have some decent firepower to boot. Last but not least would be the Artillery Cruisers, aka the snipers. They float around on the outside of the battle blasting away with their long range rail cannons. They can totally fuck up your day, unless you are right next to them. At that point it’s lights out, as they have basically no armor. Each class is familiar enough that if you play other arena games you should be able to almost immediately find something that fits your playstyle.

        The fights are smooth, and they are tactical. After playing Overwatch almost nonstop for the last month, the transition was jarring at first, however after a few matches I found it to be a refreshing change of pace from the at times hectic melee that many shooters tend to be these days. The terrain varies from full on space battles, to fights in a ruined city, or in a frozen mountain range. Nothing too mind blowing, but they suit their purpose. Again, it is just a beta, I’m sure that when the full game launches there will be plenty more places in which to blow one another up.

         When not in combat, the interface is basically a cut and dry clone of other games in the genre, such as Mechwarrior online. You can use the in game currency to purchase ships, weapons, unlock skills, or buy cosmetics upgrades.You can also use your own hard earned cash to spring for Greybox points which basically special currency to get more bang for your buck. Again, pretty standard. So far I have been able to rely on the in game currency for any and all purchases as it comes at a pretty decent rate. As I play the game more I may end up springing for some but for now I am enjoying the grinding process too much to even consider it. Increasing my pilot rank is the priority as most of the games best ships and weapons are locked behind higher ranks.

        Overall, Dreadnought is just plain fun. It may not appeal to some of the twitch shooter fans out there, but for anyone looking to try something new, I can say that this is a game worth looking into. The combat feels good, the ships are fun to fly, and the battles are fun to look at. There is still a long way to go to flesh out some sort of a story but the developers seem to be taking the time and putting in the attention to detail to come up with something pretty great. Is it going to be a genre defying grand slam the likes of Modern Warfare? Probably not. But for those who are looking for something new with some of that old-school Mechwarrior flair, this is probably the game for you. Look for me if you decide to take the plunge! I’ll be in a destroyer.

To see our First Impressions video click here!!!

-CDL

What makes Zelda, Zelda

No one wants to see their work go stale and the good folks over at Nintendo are no exception to that. The team working on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has publicly stated that the newest entry into the franchise will rethink the conventions of Zelda. As a lifelong fan of Zelda, this has me a little worried. Every major release of the series since Ocarina of Time has tried to play with the traditional formula to varying degrees of success. They add wolves or a three day timeline but the strong entries of the franchise keep the spirit of Zelda alive. Obviously there is a limit. New entries should be distinguished but fans would probably not care for a first person shooter.

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Link’s Crossbow Training may be largely forgotten but at least you could shoot a Goron in the nards.

Not all of the little experiments are positive. We never went back to a 2D side scroller or to the ocean. So, beyond the familiar aesthetics of fairies and swords, what should be preserved as sacred in Hyrule? What makes the games stand out? What makes Zelda, Zelda? With a new Zelda game on the horizon, here’s what I’ve come to expect in order to keep the Zelda mystique alive:

Rich Game Worlds

When I first heard about Majora’s Mask, I was disappointed. The hype had been building for years when my friend informed me that the game would only have four dungeons. Really? That’s it? The series had just enjoyed two of its best games: A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time both with a whopping 12 dungeons but Majora’s Mask would only have 4. Even the Gameboy game had 8! But Majora’s Mask is still one of the best entries because there was so much in the world of Termina. Taking a cue from Link’s Awakening, just getting to the next dungeon took a dungeon’s level of effort and time. Beyond that, there was about a dungeon’s worth of content after you finished the dungeon in each region. This is a classic storytelling technique: to have all characters, events and environments working towards painting the overall picture. All of the strongest entries in the Zelda series do this with rich environments, unique settings and quirky characters, some of whom we really came to care about.

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My first crush. Pro tip: Don’t do a Goggle Image search for Malon at a Starbucks. It’s Overwatch-level inappropriate but with less rendering power.

This is how Zelda games leave the player with a sense of wonder at Hyrule. The player needs a whole lot more than just pointing Link on autopilot to get around (Lookin’ at you, Wind Waker!) Sure, it always takes a while to get across Hyrule Field or the Ukuku Prairie but when you got there, the game is filled to its very limits with life. Sorry Stone Temple Pilots, this isn’t the Big Empty!

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 If you came up with that boating crap, your head should be conscious laden.

Character Growth

The Legend of Zelda is a legend, a story. The characters in any good story are faced with a conflict and are forced to grow. Think about any RPG you have played. Your hero gains points and levels up in a calculated, measured way. Yes, the hero grows, but this growth is told-not-shown. The sense of growth in a Zelda game is a little less Final Fantasy and a little more Megaman.  While RPGs generally tell are more detailed story, the growth Link experiences is more nuanced and frankly more powerful. Link does gain health in a measured way but the real growth comes with collecting new items, often as a token for a feat of strength. In Twilight Princess, the first major item Link acquires is the boomerang. It’s nice, I guess. He can stun enemies and grab things at a distance. But later, Link gets the clawshot, which I’m told is different than the hookshot which is what it’s called in literally every other game. C’mon Nintendo! Get it together! Uh, anyway, the clawshot is a vast improvement on the boomerang. It’s more direct, faster to use and you can even hang from the walls. And to top that, your last dungeon item is a second claw so Link can swing around the walls like Spiderman. This item progression shows a steady growth of Link as a hero as we grow as players.

linkle-620x328

Dual wielding crossbows would come later. Much to the joy of a 12-year-old-me, there’s at least a hope of a Zelda-Matrix crossover.

Side note to anyone who thinks I’m picking on Wind Waker: WW does a great job in this area. There is a steady growth path from the grappling hook to the boomerang to the hookshot.

A Link Between Worlds failed in this area, to be honest. If Link can buy items, two things happen. 1: Link does not gain items through his challenges, his growth comes through cash. If I wanted to play Top 1%er, the Game I would play Sim City. 2: If you’re a power gamer like me, Link’s growth comes all at once at the start of the game and not at a steady pace.

Playing more directly off of traditional storytelling, Link’s growth also comes in the plot. Our hero often suffers a scripted loss to the final boss long before a real fight can take place. At the beginning of Oracle of Seasons, General Onyx tosses Link to the side like a rag doll but eight Essences of Nature later, Link returns to shit in Onyx’s punch bowl.

Bridging the gap between story and game mechanics, Link’s growth can come in the form of new techniques as he is taught by other characters. These teacher characters usually hold special significance in the plot and will only teach Link once he is ready. This simultaneously shows plot-driven growth and mechanic-driven growth.

Side note again to anyone who thinks I’m picking on Wind Waker: WW does a crap job in this area. Link suffers a scripted loss to Ganondorf who then takes mercy on Link out of kindness. So nothing will happen if Link loses. He and Zelda can just go home. Speaking of…

Urgency!

All video games have escapist appeal. For a few minutes per day, I’m not a software engineer, I’m an ace pilot or a mage or, in the case of Zelda, a hero.

 

overwatch

For a few minutes a day, I’m Samus or Beast from X-men or Lord Humongus

In the first few Zelda games, players knew the princess/Hyrule was in danger and needed to be saved but from Ocarina of Time on, the players felt it. The urgency comes straight out of classic storytelling techniques, again. When we see Link lose to the villain early in the adventure, we understand that he can fail in his mission. Because Nintendo lets the bad guys actually be bad, we get to find out what will happen if our hero does indeed fail. We watch helplessly Majora’s Mask sending the moon crashing into Termina, we see the denizens of Hyrule fading into Twilight, we see people frozen in time in Lybranna. These are not looming threats in the shadows, these threats are directly in our face.

I’m not saying every Zelda game needs to be a dark or that we need to keep away from Toon Link. The darkness and gravity need to be balanced for the story. After all, part of the charm of Zelda is the quirky humor. Who doesn’t love Tingle? But any comedic relief should be used to let the audience relax after a tense moment so they are not desensitized to it during the next moment.

c3po

Remember this goofy bastard losing his mind even after the Millennium Falcon was safe?

Compare the humor of Ocarina of Time to the Humor of Wind Waker. In order to get the second Spiritual Stone, Link makes a deal with the Gorons who are literally being starved to death, so he enters a dark cavern to defeat a monstrous dinosaur by throwing bombs at it until it commits suicide in a pit of lava. Pretty dark stuff, really. Just a minute later when the Gorons know they are safe, we see Link run away screaming from a being hugged by his Goron pals. The humor defuses the tension and lets the player know that the Gorons are going to be alright. In Wind Waker humor is just used poorly. When the Tower of the Gods rises from the sea, we should be in awe of the magnificent structure and be mentally preparing for the ancient trial. Instead, Link is sent flying into the side of the tower. The humor here defuses the tension of a situation before it can be built.

The Zelda games are also stand out in gaming because the player can actually see the world getting better, bit by bit. This gives each act of the story a fall-and-rise arc where you can see the destruction and that you can right the wrong there.

Oracle of Ages embodies all these elements of urgency the most. You see Link tossed aside by Veran early in the game because he is not really a threat. Throughout the adventure you see people frozen in time and you see their loved ones suffering. You fail again half way through the game and your enemy comes closer to her dark goal. But, little by little, you gain small victories, like cleaning the polluted ocean or saving the Oracle. Once your enemy’s looming threat is complete, you, the hero, are ready to save Lybranna and undo the damage.

zelda_oracle_ages_conceptart_bodit

Cartoony? A little. Tense? You betcha!

Final Thoughts

I’m not trying to distill Zelda down into a formula. I’m really not. Some changes to the Zelda games have been fantastic. Look at Twilight Princess, which was bold enough to change the hero into a pawn and mount for an untrustworthy manipulator. Nintendo colored outside of the lines and painted something more beautiful. There are a lot of changes coming in Breath of the Wild and they all seem like reasons to be excited. The hunting and weapon durability systems are brand new to the series and may add to the Zelda experience. But that’s what they should do: add. I hope Nintendo keeps a link to their past open and learns from the masters: themselves.

Skyrim Remaster Is A Step In The Right Direction, But It’s Not The Game We’re Waiting For

        E3 is officially in full swing, and Bethesda made some waves yesterday announcing a full HD current-gen remaster of Skyrim to be released in October. Here’s the link to the video preview, and I’ve got to say hot DAMN it looks good. Elder Scrolls fan’s everywhere rejoice! Between this and the upcoming release of Dishonored 2, it looks like it’s gonna be a big year for Bethesda.

        So, now that we got the appropriate praises out of the way, I’ve gotta say, this was a huge disappointment to me. I had been hearing rumors over the last few days that there was going to be an elder scrolls remaster announced and (although I was pretty sure it was Skyrim) I couldn’t help but hope against hope that we were FINALLY going to get a polished up remaster of Morrowind. I get that Skyrim was a badass game, but most people are still able to play it on their old systems for the most part, and while there is definitely a graphical upgrade between the old version and the new, the visual upgrade really isn’t anything all that spectacular. That’s not a knock on the work that the team at Bethesda has done, more just the fact that there wasn’t all that much room to improve upon in the first place.

         Now Morrowind on the other hand, holy shit that is a game that needs a facelift. On a whim last year I decided to purchase the Collector’s Edition on Steam for old times sake and as soon as I loaded it I remember thinking “woah… it wasn’t this bad when it released was it?”

A looker he is not

The truth is it was, but that’s because the game was released was released 14 years ago. At the time that game was the prettiest thing I have ever seen, and it deserves to be brought back for a new generation of gamers. I talk to my brothers all the time about the games they are playing and what they are looking forward to and it always pains me to realize that they have never been able to play through Morrowind, one of the defining games of my childhood. I have recommended it to them over and over and to their credit, they have made a couple of attempts at it but always end up giving up citing the terrible graphics and clunky combat as barriers to them making it through the game. That’s a travesty. Morrowind was THE game. An almost perfect Elder Scrolls. The environment, the characters, the score (still gets me going as soon as I hear those flute melodies), it’s amazing.

        I ended up playing through Morrowind again anyways despite the lack of polish in the graphics and the thing still holds up after all these years! At this point I am crossing my fingers that if they are remaking Skyrim, at some point they have to go back to Oblivion and Morrowind again, even if it’s just because it is a basically guaranteed cash grab. When that day comes I will be READY. Until then FUS RO DAH bitches.

-CDL

So, Let’s Talk About All That Overwatch Porn

So, Let’s Talk About All That Overwatch Porn

        So Kotaku released this article yesterday about all of the Overwatch porn that has exploded online, especially since the release of the Beta. It’s an interesting read, and yes it does have all kinds of NSFW links to videos if that is the only reason you clicked on the post (I’m not gonna post em here but I’m also not going to judge you for heading over there for a quick look). It does bring to light some interesting questions though with regards to Blizzards intellectual property and the freedom of what other people can do with their characters. It also brings to light the blurred lines between what can be considered sexy, pornographic, or just playful with regards to how a character is made and dressed. It’s especially ironic that it is Blizzard who is wrapped up in this, since they were the ones that caused so much online backlash over one of their character’s infamous butt pose. If you aren’t familiar with the controversy, basically the victory pose of Tracer, one of the main protagonist characters in the game was criticized by a player due to the pose basically just being a showcase of her butt and not bringing much to her personality. What would typically be a one-off comment gained quite a bit of traction online, leading to a full blown controversy when Blizzard actually kind of sided with the fan and changed the pose. Click on the link for the full story but overall the whole thing was kind of silly and the new pose is still plenty butt-centric.

Blizzard replaces Tracer’s butt pose in Overwatch with a better butt pose

Still some good booty action there 

        So if something as tame as the above shown “butt pose” was causing all of that backlash, what is blizzard supposed to do with the sudden influx of full on porn out there? It seems like they took some steps to try to remove some of their character models but obviously they aren’t going to be able to stem the flow at this point, and it would be ludicrous to think that they could. Rule 34 lives forever for a reason. But the real question is why would they really want to? I mean it’s not like they should be partnering with Pornhub and sponsoring FMV videos, but as long as it isn’t actively hurting their brand I say let people run with it. I mean just look at the marketing implications right here.

If people are thinking about your product during their alone time, you probably have a pretty good product

        We live in an increasingly politically correct world, where the idea of women as sex objects is stands completely opposed to the idea of women as being empowered and that is never something that I have completely understood. Why can’t she be both? Why can’t she be a total badass individual while at the same time flaunting that fact that she is sexy and she knows it. The two are so quickly considered mutually exclusive, and they don’t have to be. Go ahead and follow some of the links up there IF YOU AREN’T AT WORK and tell me how many of those women, even in those pictures/videos aren’t just as badass as they were before. It’s the thing that has actually surprised me the most about the whole Overwatch Rule 34 scene, when compared to your typical mainstream porn, the difference is almost night and day. There is very little violence, there are almost no men involved at all, and at no point have I been given the impression that any of these women are less deadly, exciting, or admired because someone has made a video showing them enjoying sex.

Badass+sexy

I think that’s probably the key point there. Granted I haven’t seen ALL the Overwatch porn out there, and there will be exceptions to everything, but by and large I think that the fact that it has become so popular so quickly speaks more to how interesting and exciting the characters are than anything else. Obviously it’s going to be a polarizing topic and I am sure there are going to be those that vehemently disagree with me, and that’s fine. Perception is reality right? However from my point of view, this is actually the first time that I have seen a pornographic character treatment that I can say doesn’t seem like just a cheap cash in on the character names. So there you have it, my take on the whole Overwatch porn scene. Judge as you will!

-CDL

Racism Spoils Dreamhack Hearthstone Tournament, Blizzard NOT Happy

        First off, let’s start things off with how last weekends Dreamhack event should have ended, with a huge fucking congratulations to Terrance Miller for going toe to toe with Keaton “Chakki” Gill and finishing a respectable 2nd place in the tournament. Why are we here congratulating the runner up instead of writing about the tournament champion? Because of the torrential storm of bullshit that was being played out on the screens during the live Twitch stream. It was a fucking disgrace. If you follow gaming or the Twitch streaming community in general, you probably can already assume what was taking place. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these things, or with the dregs of the internet in general, the stream was filled with racist comments, rhetoric, and pictures that were so distracting it was hard to watch the tournament in itself. Oh yeah, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t mention it because it shouldn’t matter) but Terrance is black. He is also a good Hearthstone player. He is also a classy dude, attempting to focus on the positive and brush off as best he can what happened during his match. Luckily enough, he couldn’t see the comments while he was playing, instead noticing them after when he watched his performance. Instead of being able to soak in the moment and watch what would have been the performance of his career, instead he was distracted watching the vitriol that was being spewed forth by anonymous douchebags watching from home.

         

Sorry bud

        He and his family weren’t the only ones who noticed, Blizzard was also reading all of the comments that were showing up during the live feed and they were NOT happy about it. Obviously Twitch did have moderators in place to attempt to stem the flow, but not only were there too few, but there were actually some who were adding to the chaos by counteracting preventative measures that were being taken by some of the top Twitch Mods. The fact is it was way too little and way too late. When asked about it afterwards, Twitch has mostly avoided commenting, simply citing their anti-discrimination terms of use statement. Blizzard on the other hand, has taken a much more vocal approach. When contacted by Polygon for comment, President Mike Morhaime said, “We’re extremely disappointed by the hateful, offensive language used by some of the online viewers during the DreamHack Austin event the weekend before last, one of our company values is ‘Play Nice; Play Fair;’ we feel there’s no place for racism, sexism, harassment, or other discriminatory behavior, in or outside of the gaming community.” They have since spearheaded an effort to work with Twitch, Dreamhack, other event planners, and even players to prevent something like this from happening at events going forward. It’s nice to see that they are going to be taking steps going forward, but it does beg the question what the shit took this long? Like this isn’t a new phenomenon, this is a problem that Twitch has been having pretty much since it’s creation, so why haven’t we already been doing this? Still, better late than never I guess. Until then hopefully players like Terrance can just keep taking the high road and keep kicking ass, and I will keep respecting them for it.

-CDL