Preparing for Alice: Madness Returns

Back in March, I was stationed on the Children’s floor of the local library that I work at, tasked with tidying up the shelves and making sure the place was orderly. I always admired it because the majority of the books I enjoyed from elementary school well through high school were aptly defined as children’s books. While I never could read everything I set my mind to back then, I always walked past a certain title that made me wish I were a kid again, with no responsibilities, free to leisurely read. Before Harry Potter took the position of the most important children’s book of our generation, that title was firmly held by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

I checked it out immediately, and made a habit to read a couple pages a day since then. I finally finished it last night, and I not only enjoyed it for the literature it was, but I believe its going to be very important in terms of understanding the context of the upcoming game based upon it.

Alice: Madness Returns is the sequel to 2000’s American McGee’s Alice. Both games take the original plot from Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass in a decidedly darker direction… And darker is putting it lightly. Wonderland, the utopia as it was shown in the books, is corrupted by Alice’s mind, twisted into a bloody, grotesque, evil incarnation. It’s inhabitants also morph to reflect these changes; The Cheshire Cat goes from a plump, jolly feline to an emaciated feral beast with pierced ears. The Mad Hatter, constantly dining with tea and a pastry, regresses into a green-skinned fellow who spends his time experimenting on the other hapless denizens of Wonderland, taking them apart and replacing their body parts with machinery…

…This isn’t Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter, and this isn’t the Wonderland any of us were taught in grade school. These are just a few differences, but you get the picture.

Although Alice: Madness Returns is clearly an action adventure title, I think it’s very important to not only take into account the game play elements, but also the atmosphere and the storyline. Many game reviews will either praise an action game’s storyline if it’s good, or hastily push it to the side and not weigh it as much if it’s bad. For this game, I think both sides will be important to take into account. Not many games draw directly from the world of Literature like Alice does, so I think this game will definitely be a treat.

Alice: Madness Returns will be dropping on June 14, 2011.

And the Winner Is…

Japanese Role Playing Games have been a cornerstone of the realm of video games for years. When we’re tired of shooting, platforming or sports games, there’s nothing like an adventure that features memorable characters, a well written narrative that appeals to the fantasy fan in all of us. Most gamers have been fans of RPGs in general due to the many entries of the Final Fantasy series, as it’s consistently been one of the biggest gaming franchises of each console generation. Although one would think the winning formula that Final Fantasy always has to offer would be just that, a lot of unrest has been circulating over the past few years. The majority of JRPGs follow a number of the same troupes; which include effeminate male characters, cliché storylines to name a few, along with other points that often cross with anime, manga or Japanese culture in general. Many people have begun to call out why this has been happening, and have even shined the spotlight on Final Fantasy.

2010 was a year of turbulence in the Role Playing Game realm, because many household names suddenly found themselves having to fight to stay relevant and viable. Of the games that I reviewed this year, I feel that Final Fantasy XIII was the one who took up this challenge and responded to the growing concerns that ridiculed its waning popularity.

There are several vexing features that are unique to Final Fantasy XIII, which largely served to disgruntle many players who were used to many traditional concepts in the long running series. These changes, while unexpected, were the essence of moving the series forward in its own way.

Here’s what some of you elitists missed out on

Let’s talk about the biggest complaint people seem to have with Final Fantasy XIII: “It takes twenty hours for the game to get fun.” “Half of the game is an interactive tutorial.” “It’s too linear.” Every time I hear these comments, I can’t help but cringe. Yes, the game doesn’t “open up” until the group is fully assembled, and that doesn’t occur until the end of Chapter 9. (There are a total of 13 Chapters, of varying lengths.) In light of that, it would be pretty ridiculous to think that the player is being “held against their will” and forced to not get any enjoyment from the game for such a long time. While the player is “restricted” in that sense for this portion of the game, let’s look at why this seems to be complained about.

First, character growth is capped for each chapter, to discourage power leveling. Fortunately for those who didn’t notice, this maintains the challenge for the player. Secondly, each chapter introduces a new concept during combat for the player to grasp and master. This game features a new rendition of the Active Time Battle system that many of us are used to, and without learning the nuances of it, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. For example, during a boss fight in Chapter 3, players are faced with learning the importance of effective Paradigm Shifting. Near the end of the battle, the boss unleashes a desperation attack that will put each party member in critical health, and it soon follows up with another attack that kills everyone off. The player can only get through this boss fight once they understand that they have to shift to a Paradigm that focuses on healing to survive the rest of the encounter. If they are successful, the party switches to “healing mode,” and weathers the oncoming attacks with ease. Soon after the party is healthy again, they can finish off their adversary with little trouble. A quick decision like that was mandatory for this boss fight, and must be second nature for the player in order to make it through the more difficult fights later in the game. Each chapter during this linear section of the game has lessons that the player needs to understand fully in order to survive, because when the game finally affords more freedom to the party, any encounter can result in a game over if the player wasn’t prudent enough to understand the mechanics of the game while the training wheels were still on.

“So we’re all here to save the world; not just me, right?”

As I mentioned before, the party is split up for the first nine chapters of the game. One of the key reasons behind this is that the player is treated to one-on-one character interactions that really help to delve into each characters personality with as little interference from the rest of the cast. Ironically, most of this development occurs during the early part of the game that many players glossed over. Here’s a clip demonstrating the growing camaraderie between Lightning and Hope during some of the cut scenes throughout Chapter 5.

Video Credit: TheShatteredElement, Square Enix and Final Fantasy XIII.

Bonding like this isn’t possible in a group setting; and this is especially true in real life as well. Since the team was divided, it allowed more energy to be put into each character at each turn of the plot. In turn, players could better understand their personalities and make connections to them. For once, each party member had a direct stake in the mission at hand, and there wasn’t a character that was “just along for the ride,” or lacked any pertinent dialogue. When the team finally was formed, this cohesion continued to the end.

Multiple discs still work

Although we always thought the concept of console loyalty would still be upheld by Final Fantasy (despite it’s past on Nintendo’s systems), this too unraveled. Although this game was originally planned to only be on Playstation 3, an Xbox 360 port was also announced. Whenever a game has a port coming along for another system, development often has to be scaled back so the finished product can run nearly identically for each console it’s released on. The differences in graphics were notably small, but definitely blown out of proportion by elitists. A funny complaint involved the minor difference that the Xbox 360 version had multiple discs, while the Blu-Ray only needed one. The bottom line here is that the entire Xbox player base that may have never experienced a Final Fantasy game before now had its chance. This is just another idea of the changing landscape in the video game industry – There’s not much reason not to limit your audience, especially if the game in question is Final Fantasy. Playstation fans shouldn’t be whining, as they’re receiving the same olive branch with the soon to be released Playstation 3 port of Mass Effect 2.

It’s pointless to compare Final Fantasy XIII with the other big titles in the series, like Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy X. Each of those games had their own changes and additions that helped make them notable games that fans could easily identify with. Although their changes were much more subtle, they weren’t met with as much resistance as Final Fantasy XIII is facing. No two entries are the same, because there’s always a new story to be told, and new ideas and ways to help move the game forward.

Moving forward, like it or not

If you examine anything well known- be it a famous band, television or video game series, there will always be people who have problems when the franchise is taken in a new direction. Whether it’s because a long standing tradition has been broken, or new ideas have taken prominence over the old, it’s impossible to disagree with the fact that change is going on. It’s painfully clear that nothing is really safe in video games. In this landscape, a game that wasn’t afraid to leap into the unknown and to try something new, like Final Fantasy XIII has this year, is without a doubt deserving my choice for Game of the Year 2010.

Why I Missed the Party: Mass Effect

I really miss Baldur’s Gate.

Sometimes I can remember the nights I would play it. I was always in the middle of a journey, adventuring with a ragtag group of heroes from all walks of life. In every event, their unique perspectives would often mix in with mine, with pretty interesting results. If I were to meddle in the affairs of two warring estates to settle the dispute peacefully, my meaner teammate would be the first to ask me why I was such a nice guy. Conversely, my “good” party members would question my intentions as I went into dealings with a criminal syndicate. Extreme actions were often met with brow beatings or threats to leave me high and dry, so I always had to make decisions with those potential responses of my party in mind. I won’t give you all too many examples, but the point is this; Baldur’s Gate, in addition to Western Role Playing Games in general represented a much more active approach to storytelling, and to this day is one of my favorite games of all time.

Before the days of Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire or Dragon Age: Origins, I was introduced to Western RPG’s with the Baldur’s Gate series. This was a time where Squaresoft was the supreme ruler of the RPG genre; a time where the average gamer would only be aware of classics like Final Fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, the games I’ve reviewed thus far are a clear beacon: Japanese RPG’s have been very good to me. However, I feel as if I’ve hit some sort of limit with them.

Like I said in a previous post, the Mass Effect series had gone right over my head. It was a combination of bad timing on my part, and an infatuation of a number of other games, and regrettably, little bit of bias.

I had put a lot of stock in Bioware’s RPG, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, when it was preparing to release. The Star Wars universe was trying its hand at being an RPG, after many years of existing as an avenue for action/adventure games. This was new, and it was big. Playing as a unique character who realizes the potential to wield the force made out to be an excellent idea on paper, but for me, it fell flat. Combat left something to be desired and from there, I continued to find more things wrong with the game. Perhaps it just didn’t work well for me, since this was a top selling role playing game, and did very well to put Bioware into more homes than the average Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast. Personally, I think that Bioware’s brand of RPG was in a transition phase: At the release of KOTOR, it hadn’t reached a stable point that I could enjoy, compared to what Baldur’s Gate had already accomplished.

Since I didn’t like it, I swore off Bioware games completely, since 2003.

However, it’s been seven (almost eight) years since that then. Western RPGs have steadily been on the rise in terms of innovation and mass appeal. At the forefront of this is Bioware, touting a number of games like the ones I listed earlier.

2010 is coming to a close, and unfortunately this is the time where most of us sign off and burrow into our caves to rest every inch of our minds and bodies for the duration of Winter Break. I’ve reviewed everything I wanted to cover for a while, and since I have about two months or so before the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, I want to put my reviews on pause for the time being. During this break, I’ll be getting reacquainted with Bioware, and observing how far they’ve come by playing through both Mass Effect games consecutively. I played the demo of Mass Effect 2 recently, and have been completely enthralled with the game play. Perhaps after so many months of having to fight monsters with keyblades and photon weapons while dialogue and plot spoon fed to me, It feels pretty damn satisfying to shoot stuff, and carve my own path (where it’s possible) by choosing what I want to say next.

I just got Mass Effect 1 in the mail late this week and have already gotten my Commander Shepard to become a Spectre, so I’m already knee deep into this great game.

When I look back on certain games, I hate to say that the reason I’m not playing them is because of a bias that was rooted in a previous game. I used to think that Bioware wouldn’t get back on track after finishing Baldur’s Gate. Even though I’m a couple years behind, Mass Effect is clearly proving to be just what I needed to restore my faith in Western RPGs.

Here’s one of many epic moments that made me glad I’m playing this –

Reader’s Choice Awards 2010

When I think of ‘Game of the Year’, I ask myself: “If I had to pick one title that would be representative of an entire year of gaming, what would that be?” What qualifications does this game in question have to meet? Is this a game that everyone knows about, or does it have a small yet dedicated following? Can it just be a personal favorite?

I think it would only be fair if I were to choose games that I have accrued a substantial amount of knowledge on – in other words, only the games that were released and I reviewed in 2010 could apply here. With that said, I’ll run through each candidate with a small excerpt from my reviews and my personal thoughts on them:

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

“If anything, it’s hard to realize that this is still a portable game. Sometimes, I had to notice everything that was happening was indeed going on in the palm of my hands, rather than on a television. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an excellent Action RPG that will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.”

I’d venture to say that the Nintendo DS is the more popular of the two portable systems. However, games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are shining examples of the sheer advantages of higher technology the PSP wields over its rival. Without a doubt, this is a fully fledged Kingdom Hearts game on a portable system you can take on the go, which is really excellent. While the majority of the main quest was a tad redundant due to the fact that you tour the very same worlds three times, it was done through three different perspectives. I loved each of the heroes, and was genuinely sad to see their fates at the game’s climax. However, like every Kingdom Hearts game, the ending always sheds some light on the future game, where each of their fates will be rectified.

White Knight Chronicles

“White Knight Chronicles doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. It’s a solid RPG for sure, and going online with your Avatar will be the reason to why you would still be playing after the story mode is finished. Aside from Geonet’s thoughtful interface and the exciting, but shortchanged combo system, it tries to be a MMO from the mid 2000’s. I’d like to think we’ve evolved from slow combat and lifeless quests. By haphazardly relying on the innovations of games in the past, White Knight Chronicles ultimately fails to set itself apart from the pack.”

Despite the few good things White Knight Chronicles has accomplished, it took a hefty beating for recycling a lot of conventions that helped define the JRPG. This ranged from very linear characters, inanimate quests that weren’t very involving, and an archaic battle system. While doing this, it couldn’t help but seeming like a combination of a lot of overused mechanics strung together. This Frankenstein of a game simply didn’t cut it.

Final Fantasy XIII

“Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.”

Despite being a household name in terms of RPG’s, Final Fantasy XIII is easily the most polarizing title in the long running series. Never before have I seen so many fans divided over the merits and complaints of this game. Regardless of your personal thoughts, it was a risk to change so many traditional concepts that Final Fantasy is known for. However in light of that, JRPG’s have been getting denounced for doing the same thing over and over again. If anyone were to shake up the pot, I’d like to think that Final Fantasy would have the most favorable results, right?

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

“Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is deceptively simple. Because the focus is completely on what you experience behind the wheel, there are no distractions to take away from driving. While we never will be able to realize our fantasy of speeding down a highway going 140 miles an hour evading the law, or enforcing it ourselves, this is an excellent break from reality; a great racing game that never fails to disappoint.”

I had a blast with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Racing games like this are just what you need sometimes: Frantic aggressive action that never lets up until the race is over. While a lot of people may have gone straight to Gran Turismo 5 since it released in the same month, I’m one of the few that believe there’s other really good choices for those who want to get their racing fix. Fun fact: The last Need for Speed game that ever won an E3 award was the original Hot Pursuit, which came out in 1998. Even though twelve years have passed, a successful formula like this always will come out in first place.

Phantasy Star Portable 2

“By now, if you’ve heard of the Phantasy Star series, you either hate what it’s become, or have been sticking around, hoping that it will come around to achieve its former glory as one of the most prolific Action RPG series of this decade. (Phantasy Star) Portable 2 drives remarkably closer to that nostalgia that originally drew us in. This is definitely a game to get your hands on.”

Whenever I talk about anything related to Phantasy Star anymore, I feel as if I have to play Devil’s Advocate. In our ever growing history of video games, wherever I turn, it seems that the pages where this game would be mentioned are suspiciously left blank, or smudged over! The main thing that I like about this game is that at its most basic components, it is a port of the same game that came out in 2006. However, because of the numerous additions the game has had in the form of an expansion and a boatload of added content like tweaks to the mechanics, many new missions and equipment to hunt for, there was always stuff to keep players busy. This game is the pinnacle of all of that content, shrink-wrapped and ready to take in your pocket.

Now that each choice is pooled here together, it’s time to choose! Unfortunately, this year is the ‘Battle of the RPG’s plus a racing game,’ so I want to apologize for a lack of variety in genres. Next year will be better in that aspect! What game do you guys think should gain the honor of Hit Points’ Game of the Year 2010? Vote for your favorite game! Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my choice by the end of the year.

 

When I think of ‘Game of the Year’, I ask myself: “If I had to pick one title that would be representative of an entire year of gaming, what would that be?” What qualifications does this game in question have to meet? Is this a game that everyone knows about, or does it have a small yet dedicated following? Can it just be a personal favorite?

I think it would only be fair if I were to choose games that I have accrued a substantial amount of knowledge on – in other words, only the games that were released and I reviewed in 2010 could apply here. With that said, I’ll run through each candidate with a small excerpt from my reviews, and my personal thoughts on them:

Final Fantasy XIII

“Final Fantasy XIII will divide many fans. For those who rely on tradition, there will be some shock to get over. Once that has subsided, what remains is definitely an excellent adventure. It made a bold move to take a chance and change a lot of the elements players have held dear. In the pursuit of innovation, the result is a great game, and it deserves to stand proud in the canon of RPG’s.”

Despite being a household name in terms of RPG’s, Final Fantasy XIII is easily the most polarizing title in the long running series. Never before have I seen so many fans divided over the merits and complaints of this game. Regardless of your personal thoughts, it was a risk to change so many traditional concepts that Final Fantasy is known for. However in light of that, JRPG’s have been getting denounced for doing the same thing over and over again. If anyone were to shake up the pot, I’d like to think that Final Fantasy would have the most favorable results, right?

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

“If anything, it’s hard to realize that this is still a portable game. Sometimes, I had to notice everything that was happening was indeed going on in the palm of my hands, rather than on a television. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an excellent Action RPG that will definitely keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish.”

I’d venture to say that the Nintendo DS is the more popular of the two portable systems. However, games like Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep are shining examples of the sheer advantages of higher technology the PSP wields over its rival. Without a doubt, this is a fully fledged Kingdom Hearts game on a portable system you can take on the go, which is really excellent. While the majority of the main quest was a tad redundant due to the fact that you tour the very same worlds three times, it was done through three different perspectives. I loved each of the heroes, and was genuinely sad to see their fates at the game’s climax. However, like every Kingdom Hearts game, the ending always sheds some light on the future game, where each of their fates will be rectified.

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit

“Need for Speed Hot Pursuit is deceptively simple. Because the focus is completely on what you experience behind the wheel, there are no distractions to take away from driving. While we never will be able to realize our fantasy of speeding down a highway going 140 miles an hour evading the law, or enforcing it ourselves, this is an excellent break from reality; a great racing game that never fails to disappoint.”

I had a blast with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. Racing games like this are just what you need sometimes: Frantic aggressive action that never lets up until the race is over. While a lot of people may have gone straight to Gran Turismo 5 since it released in the same month, I’m one of the few that believe there’s other really good choices for those who want to get their racing fix. Fun fact: The last Need for Speed game that ever won an E3 award was the original Hot Pursuit, which came out in 1998. Even though twelve years have passed, a successful formula like this always will come out in first place.

Phantasy Star Portable 2

“By now, if you’ve heard of the Phantasy Star series, you either hate what it’s become, or have been sticking around, hoping that it will come around to achieve its former glory as one of the most prolific Action RPG series of this decade. (Phantasy Star) Portable 2 drives remarkably closer to that nostalgia that originally drew us in. This is definitely a game to get your hands on.”

Whenever I talk about anything related to Phantasy Star anymore, I feel as if I have to play Devil’s Advocate. In our ever growing history of video games, wherever I turn, it seems that the pages where this game would be mentioned are suspiciously left blank, or smudged over! The main thing that I like about this game is that at its most basic components, it is a port of the same game that came out in 2006. However, because of the numerous additions the game has had in the form of an expansion and a boatload of added content like tweaks to the mechanics, many new missions and equipment to hunt for, there was always stuff to keep players busy. This game is the pinnacle of all of that content, shrink-wrapped and ready to take in your pocket.

White Knight Chronicles

“White Knight Chronicles doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. It’s a solid RPG for sure, and going online with your Avatar will be the reason to why you would still be playing after the story mode is finished. Aside from Geonet’s thoughtful interface and the exciting, but shortchanged combo system, it tries to be a MMO from the mid 2000’s. I’d like to think we’ve evolved from slow combat and lifeless quests. By haphazardly relying on the innovations of games in the past, White Knight Chronicles ultimately fails to set itself apart from the pack.”

Despite the few good things White Knight Chronicles has accomplished, it took a hefty beating for recycling a lot of conventions that helped define the JRPG. This ranged from very linear characters, inanimate quests that weren’t very involving, and an archaic battle system. While doing this, it couldn’t help but seeming like a combination of a lot of overused mechanics strung together. This Frankenstein of a game simply didn’t cut it.

Now that each choice is pooled here together, it’s time to choose! Unfortunately, this year is the ‘Battle of the RPG’s plus a racing game,’ so I want to apologize for a lack of variety in genres. Next year will be better in that aspect! What game do you guys think should gain the honor of Hit Points’ Game of the Year 2010? Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my choice by the end of the year.

Phantasy Star Portable 2: Reviewed!

Yeah, since my reviews have their own pages, when I post them, they aren’t sent as alerts to the inboxes of people who subscribed, so here it is!

I don’t have enough time to fully wrap up Phantasy Star Portable 2 with a Final Thoughts piece, since I have a number of other articles in the works already, in addition to my final exams bearing down on me. I feel that my review does it enough justice. With that said, I can move onto my next project: Need for Speed Hot Pursuit.

Stay tuned!

It’s Been a Year Already?

It’s a calm night. I look to my fireplace altar, my college’s newspaper, and sometimes, Google. These are a few sources, but they’re all places where you can go to see what I’ve done. While it hasn’t been a drop in the bucket compared to the professionals of this field, I’d like to think I’ve made a great start. Somewhere out there, my words have touched someone else. I’m not saying that I’ve given a spiraling depressed person some hope for life, but in the span of a year, I would like to think I’ve done something nice. To me, it’s something important.

This month marks an anniversary of sorts. I’ve been pursuing video game writing for a year now! It really doesn’t feel like it, but it has been a great ride so far.

The duties of an aspiring video game journalist are always as tough as they want them to be. One could occasionally write game reviews, and just be satisfied with quietly submitting their work onto a blog like this. If that isn’t fulfilling enough, they could kick it into high gear; suddenly, they would be cycling through an endless queue of titles, playing and reviewing from sunshine till moonlight. Of course, people in my position aren’t being paid for doing the same bread and butter things that actual gaming websites and publications pay their staff for, and that’s okay. If you’re like me, you’re also a college student, and have a job to top that off. More often than not, it’s going to be difficult juggling two important responsibilities like those with a time consuming hobby. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but doing this for a year has definitely helped me grow not only as a writer, but as a lover of video games.

What have you learned in one year?

Writing about games has introduced me to a new sphere of knowledge in this field. I always had a relatively small view of the gaming industry – A select few entities were covering the entire scene. In a nutshell, I simply thought the scene was like this: Publishers and developers worked on the games themselves, while a couple of publications had the magazine aspect of covering games taken care of, and the rare but beautiful G4TV (when it actually has video game-related programming) occupied the airwaves, giving a face to the coverage. Anything in between previously didn’t exist to me.

What dawned on me was the legion of hopefuls that looked on at these lucky people who have the privilege of making a living being surrounded and working within the gaming industry. It was something I couldn’t fathom. By delving deeper into the communities of various video game publications such as 1UP.com, I saw many people just like me – people with dreams of working in the industry. Whether that may be as a competitive gamer, in art, programming, or writing, I started to see how dense and complex this industry I grew up alongside truly was. As a friend of mine took his first step as an art intern at a video game publication, I started to believe that it was possible. I also was inspired by another good friend whose designs were picked up to be the basis of an iPhone game. People close to me were making things happen! I began to see that it was possible to break into this world and work in it as well. Most importantly, I started believing that a pipe dream such as “working in the video game industry” actually had potential to be made true.

What have you accomplished thus far?

At the time of this article, I’ve reviewed six games. Each title has brought me great joy in covering because I’ve not only played through them like everyone else does, I went the extra mile in analyzing what makes them good, or bad. My reviews are my pride and joy, and my experience in doing them has helped me develop as a writer. Rogue writers such as me have to also make sure their stuff is getting out to readers, and for me, this has manifested in the formation of the Facebook Like page I dedicated to this blog. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s another way that I can forward my stuff out for people in the vast social network to see.

For those of you that I’ve continually pestered in conversation to check out my blog, thank you so much for actually coming here and seeing what I’m doing.

I have tried my hand at contributing my work to video game blog sites (1UP.com, specifically) as well. I enjoyed sharing my writing with other like-minded people, and while I was doing it, it was a blast. Unfortunately I have stopped posting my work there a few months ago. I would love to start doing this again at 1UP or another place, when I’m able to make the time commitment in keeping up with another website that for the most part already accomplishes what I do here.

What do you plan to do next?

So where do I go from here? In short, I’ll keep plugging away. Like I said before, my blog stands between the two main demands of my time: work, and school. Both of these will definitely remain fixtures in my life, but despite that, they’ll never keep me down and out for too long. If I ever go a while without posting something new, just know my mind is constantly bouncing to this blog.

In terms of content, I would love to start writing a number of different types of articles in addition to what I’m already doing. Here are a couple ideas I’ve either been mulling around in my head, or have been suggested to try:

1.       More articles about the industry

2.       More interviews

3.       Nostalgia pieces

4.       Covering events such as E3 (this will be the hardest, but we’ll see!)

5.       Persuasive arguments

6.       Videos / Podcasts

7.       Getting my work published in a magazine

I’d love to hear from you guys. Despite the fact that I started this blog for my own use, each comment and every morsel of feedback help me so much. I strongly encourage all of you to take that small effort to write back to me. This could be a comment at the end of my posts, on the links I post via Facebook, or as a private message. Any way you think is necessary, I want to hear what you guys have to say! Do you want to see me review a certain game? Let me know! Was I incorrect in judging a game; too harsh or too lenient? Let’s talk about it. Responding and holding an ongoing dialogue with readers is what keeps writers doing what they do, and for me, I wholeheartedly agree with that.

Writing about video games is my ticket to accomplish my dream of working in the gaming industry. With that said, I want to thank all of you again for supporting me by coming to my page here and seeing what I’ve got to say. There are a number of websites and publications that do what I do and much more, and knowing that you guys make the time to check out what one person is doing really means a lot. Thank you all!

Here’s to another year!

Short Update

Hey readers, just a short update here. My third week of school came and went, and everything has been going pretty well so far. I’m satisfied with my classes, and beginning to get the hang of juggling them with work. With everything on my plate this time around, this year is definitely shaping up to be my toughest yet. Even so, I’ve been left wondering when I would be able to fit in some time to get some gaming done. After I finish my homework, it’s usually time for me to head to sleep, or I’d be spending time with my girlfriend. Obviously, not being prepared for school or neglecting my relationship isn’t an option, so once again, games have been taking the backseat. From one perspective, I suppose such is the life of a “truly” busy college student. However, I’m having a really hard time believing it.

Although my PS2 with Star Ocean Till the End of Time sits a few feet away from my bed night after night, I haven’t turned it on in about three weeks. I haven’t forgotten the storyline or the gameplay at all, but it’s pretty ironic how I sunk 20-30 hours into it so quickly, (It’s funny, most of that time was in the span of three days) and my chances of getting a few hours in lately have been nonexistent. Since a couple games I plan on reviewing will be released soon, I seriously doubt that I could finish it with the way things are now, much less enjoy playing through it like I was before school started again. I suppose the good thing is that if and when I ever get tired of reviewing, I’ll always have that backup game when there’s another drought.

For the majority of the summer, the TV that houses my Xbox 360 and Wii has been dead. It’s a 50 inch Sony HDTV, and the only reason why I’m ever in the living room. Unfortunately, it’s been well documented that the projection lamp inside of the casing is prone to failure after a period of time. Every nine months or so, the picture quality begins to degrade, and eventually, it will refuse to turn on. This is extra ironic, because the older televisions around the house have never had any problems, but this new(er) tech fails more often than a first generation Xbox 360. I had planned to spend some time getting back into Guitar Hero in time for its newest release, but I’ve been stopped against my will, until yesterday.

Playing Guitar Hero after six months of inactivity is a pretty humbling experience. I used to slam through nearly every song on Expert, achieving 5 stars effortlessly. I played “That Was Just Your Life” by Metallica on Expert, and had to stop halfway through the song. My wrist on my strumming hand was really hot and began to tighten up due to the breakneck strum patterns, while my fretting hand looked like the broken legs of a spider. It was pretty bad. Still, I ignored the pain and kept going. Eventually, I was used to the pain again and it eventually faded away. After about three hours of playing non-stop, I feel like I made some major progress towards getting my old skill back. I always made it a point to help out those that played with me, by telling them that they have to practically “play till it hurts, and then keep playing” in order to get better, and for once, I had to follow my own advice. I’m a little rough around the edges, but with a couple sessions like that; I’ll be back to my old self, perhaps even better.

So yeah, I’m practically at capacity in terms of things to do, so I’ll have to take my gaming breaks as they come, and enjoy them while they last before I have to get back into the grind of school and work. This semester, much less this year as a whole, will push me to the limit. My posts may be a lot more infrequent (can they get more sporadic than they already are?), but you all know what I’m working on. Peace!