Destiny 2: The Forsaken King

It’s that time of the year again. E3 hype trains are prepping their runs through our living rooms, bedrooms, and basements, and developers are preparing to literally blow the doors off of our computer cases with presentations showcasing what they believe to be their finest work, in the hopes that we will all ham-fistedly shove hard earned dollars in their general direction.

Of the many developers planning sizeable reveals for the conference itself, some of them have reserved their own company selected time to apprise us of the latest and greatest with their games. To wit, Bungie has just released their first vidoc regarding the “Year Two” expansion plan for Destiny 2, entitled Forsaken. This expansion is set in a new area based around the Reef, a frequently utilized locale from Destiny 1, which functioned mostly as a social area and the hub for Trials of Osiris and the Prison of Elders. More accurately, this series of expansions will be set in the Awoken homeland, which after the events of The Taken King…well, let’s just say that there will likely be a ton of new places to explore and characters to interact with.

I’m not going to go into a long description about the plot, or even really talk much about what is coming and how it is coming to us. Instead, I’d like to focus a little bit more on what I think is honestly the most relevant aspect of any of this new content: The Taken King. “But that’s a D1 expansion, bruh. Why do you have to bring up the past?”

Simple.

TTK represents the high water mark for the entire Destiny franchise. Both PvE and PvP had been tuned to as near to perfection as they could be, the content wasn’t utter garbage, and there were a slough of new and exciting features that were released; we got our hands on new subclasses for each character class, as well as new exotics, new loot across the board, and a “new” enemy to test it all out. Forsaken aims to do the same thing, except there’s one small problem.

We’ve already had a Taken King-level expansion.

What I’m getting at is that I am still completely baffled by the fact that Bungie reached the absolute pinnacle of Destiny development when they released TTK (and subsequently, Rise of Iron), yet they chose to almost completely scrap that success to release the nightmare that was (and to a degree, still is) Destiny 2. I understand the need for innovation completely; the video game industry is a multi-billion dollar a year business, and if you want your product to outshine all the rest, you need to bring the kickass original content. Especially if you’re pushing a game like Destiny, which relies on game world user population numbers to stay afloat. There’s a damn good reason that Eververse is pushed as hard as it is – developing game worlds this massive and detailed doesn’t come cheap, and expansions only bring in so much capital.

In the spirit of that sentiment, I’d like to officially go on the record as firmly believing that charging for expansions, offering tchotchkes and aesthetic crap for real world currency, and pushing the hell out of your IP like it was the hottest new designer drug to make it more desirable for a larger group of consumers is par for the course in the video game market, and should not be viewed as highway robbery by a bunch of scam artists trying to swipe dollars out of your pockets with shitty content.

HOWEVER…

When you have in your hands a nearly completely fleshed-out game, which had a rocky start but eventually made a relatively grand return to public favor, it makes ZERO SENSE to toss all that work in favor of a new system which may or may not be received well by your already loyal fanbase. It’s bad business practice, and even worse when measured up to any modicum of truthful advertising. This is exactly what happened with Destiny 2, and it is just as confusing as it is infuriating to watch from the perspective of a dedicated consumer.

So what does this mean moving forward into the second year of Destiny 2 content? Frankly, I think it means that Bungie is well aware that their game is not being looked upon favorably at this point in time. They are also likely painfully aware that it was their own folly of desperate “innovation” that landed them in the hot seat with their customers. Their response to this overwhelmingly negative sentiment is to go back to the source, and pull out some old tricks and shine them up, hoping that with a gradual return to greatness, their innovative wanderlust won’t be for nothing, and will keep players coming back until they inevitably release another title in the series.

For players, it means that you have to once again decide whether you’re going to be a fan of the game with faith in continual progress, or a fan of the game who can never get over the atrocities committed by these evil, horrible people who dare to attempt to create entire worlds out of thin air in a valiant (albeit somewhat foolhardy) attempt to fucking amuse you. One thing will never change about Destiny, no matter how many iterations of the game we go through, or how good or bad each one is in practice:

The concept of the game will NEVER be bad.

That’s why we all keep coming back, because we love this game, for good or ill. We complain about it, rage on social media about it, and write long diatribes on internet blogs about it because we care about it. We want to watch it grow (and even sometimes change), we want to see what the developers have up their sleeves, no matter if it’s great or terrible, and we want to interact with all of the friends we have online and the new friends we have made as a result of being involved with this game. I actually sat down the other day and went through my friends list on my Xbox, and I came to the realization that of over 200 people on that list, I had met well over half of them playing Destiny. That is astounding to me. I play plenty of multiplayer games, but none of them have ever made me feel a sense of community and fellowship like Destiny has.

So to the consumer, I say this:

Are you in, or are you out?

To Bungie:

Bring it on.

(But do try not to suck quite as much, my blood pressure is high enough already, thanks to Bethesda’s flair for the dramatic).

-b1nx

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Fallout 76: Finally, Some Good News in 2018

Nearly two weeks to the day in advance of the Bethesda E3 presentation, the company has teased what appears to be a brand new, full Fallout release, entitled Fallout 76. The trailer is full of potential clues regarding what the game is, where the story will take place, and perhaps even some plot elements as well, but I think it’s important to take a look at all of the things that are more than likely false about the conjecture people have thrown out there so far…by adding more conjecture to the mix! The trailer can be seen here, and I recommend watching it prior to continuing to read this article (for obvious reasons):

Fallout 76 Teaser Trailer

Firstly, there has been some speculation that Fallout 76 may potentially be an abridged game, or perhaps a Fallout Shelter-like experience. This is almost assuredly false, for a few different reasons. The structure of the teaser trailer itself is indicative of a game with more than just mobile game elements, and there is very clearly a longer story to be seen in this new release. It’s also worth noting that Vault 76 has been mentioned in the Citadel in Fallout 3, but was the only DC-area vault listed on that terminal that did not actually appear in the game. If there was ever a company that would go to the trouble of foreshadowing the eventual release of a game for 10+ years, it’s Bethesda.

Another indicator that this will be a full Fallout release is the history of Fallout releases themselves, starting in October 2008 with Fallout 3. Almost exactly two years later, in October of 2010, Fallout: New Vegas was released. Moving ahead to November of 2015, we saw the release of Fallout 4, the next game in the series proper. And here we are, a little over two years past that release, watching a teaser trailer for a new Fallout game which, by all appearances, looks aesthetically very similar to the graphics found in Fallout 4. My guess is that this game was developed directly alongside Fallout 4, using the same assets, engine, and basic structure, but was designed to be released on a similar timeline as Fallout: New Vegas was 8 years ago.

I’ve also heard several different people, including known Fallout info leaker Jason Schrier of Kotaku, postulate that Fallout 76 has the potential to be an online, multiplayer game similar to The Elder Scrolls Online (though probably on a lesser scale). I one thousand percent disagree with this, namely because Fallout has always been, in practice, a single player experience. It fits very well with the “Lone Wanderer” dynamic that Bethesda has created in every other Fallout release, and I just don’t see them looking to alter that. Moreover, I think that many fans of the game, while they would appreciate the novel idea of introducing multiplayer to Fallout, would end up being disappointed with the final product, and we would potentially see a meltdown in the fan base similar to what is happening with Destiny 2 right now (massive upheaval and abandonment of the IP altogether). Bethesda knows this, and would never risk such a negative reaction to one of their two biggest game series.

That being said, I don’t think it’s entirely out of the question that we might see some kind of multiplayer element being introduced in Fallout 76. The general consensus in the community seems to be that a Fallout MMO would be terrible, but a co-op mode in addition to the traditional single player experience might not be such a bad thing. Of course, everything is just speculation at this point, so it’s best to reserve judgement until we have a clearer picture of what this game’s mechanics and structure will actually be.

There was also rampant speculation as to the location of this chapter in the Fallout series prior to this trailer; some were beyond insistent that the next game would take place in New Orleans, and wishful thinkers (like myself) would have very much liked to see a Fallout title set in the Pacific Northwest. However, given the John Denver song playing on the radio singing about West Virginia, and the fact we are already aware that Vault 76 is in fact a DC-area vault, speculation of anywhere other than a rural West Virginia setting falls kind of flat. Sure, there are other potential locations where Vault 76 might exist which still fall into that same category, but Bethesda typically isn’t all that veiled about the locations their games explore.

As for the plot of the story of this new title, I feel that I would be doing everyone who reads this a disservice by attempting to ascertain what it might look like. There are, however, some general observations that can be made, but again, we can only work with what we are presented:

-The date on the early model Pip-Boy featured in the trailer is set to the 27th of October, 2102. This is significant for a couple of reasons, predominantly that this date would be almost exactly 25 years after the bombs fell in 2077. This also correlates with the canonical story of Vault 76, which describes the vault as a “control vault” operated without the presence of any of Vault-Tec’s typically horrifying human experimentation, whose doors were set to open precisely 20 years after a nuclear holocaust and “force out” the residents into the wastes for evaluation and examination.

-There are two awards in the trophy case which seem to suggest that the player character for this new game voluntarily stayed behind in the vault for an extra five years (perhaps to maintain core system functionality, or as part of some hidden and likely despicable Vault-Tec experiment). One is congratulatory of the character for eating “mystery meat” (typically a reference to cannibalism in the Fallout universe), and the other is an award for participation in something called the “isolation program.”

-The rest of the vault is littered with the remains of a large party, likely celebrating Reclamation Day and the return of vault dwellers everywhere to the surface after twenty years underground. While there are no signs of death per se, we do see a dirty backpack and pre-war hat on the bed, leading to the assumption that this particular vault dweller has already been outside of the vault at least once.

Beyond this information, the actual plot of the game is anyone’s guess. I won’t be speculating any further about the game’s plot or characters, but there will be several follow-up articles to come in the next month that will detail everything that we know for sure about Fallout 76, and once the game is released there will be a lot more to discuss. For now, however we get to revel in the news that there is in fact a brand new Fallout game likely being released later this year, and regardless of the lack of more specific details, news of this new title is plenty exciting.

So tune in June 11th for another article, where we will discuss the E3 conference in general, the Bethesda presentation, and hopefully, more concrete details about Fallout 76.

-b1nx

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Swatting Finally Claims First IRL Casualty

Gaming culture has for many years been dominated by stereotypical imagery of thirteen year old children, screaming profanity and racial slurs into headset microphones at complete strangers.

There are also caricatures of overweight, mid-30s wastoids living in their mother’s basements and playing World of Warcraft day in and day out; or the crass, neo-misogynist who cannot believe that any female would ever play video games (and when he encounters them, he berates them and tells them they shouldn’t have ever picked up a controller); or the trolls who lurk in every single popular title just waiting for the perfect opportunity to ruin someone’s experience. These depictions of gamers exist because they are real, to some degree, and there are real-world examples of every one.

Today, sadly, we add a new character to the list: The sore loser who, as a result of becoming so agitated with another person while playing a video game, gets an innocent man killed.

On December 28th in Wichita, Kansas, a man opened his front door and was immediately shot by police. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, but was later pronounced dead. The tragic part about this story is that this man (identified as Andrew Finch, 28 year old father of two) did not have any idea why the police might be showing up to his door that night; the Wichita police were responding to a homicide/hostage situation call they had anonymously received at Finch’s address.

What had actually transpired to set this chain of events in motion is quite possibly one of the most enraging, utterly preventable tragedies to come out of 2017, and unfortunately has been a long time coming.

For years now, “Swatting” has been a despicable prank played by gamers on one another when their anger over interactions in the digital world boils over into reality. Common practice is to report a fraudulent crime at the offending player’s address which is just heinous enough to merit a massive, tactical response from law enforcement; bomb threats, hostage situations, homicides, and so forth. The average result of this is, shockingly, a good scare and an odd YouTube video account of what happened when streamer A was swatted by streamer B. One of this site’s first articles was about Swatting, and offered as an example the incident which occurred during a broadcast by Alexander Wachs, AKA Whiteboy7thst, which was captured by his face cam; essentially, you see the streamer leave his chair after hearing something in his front room, then minutes later, a female police officer in full tactical gear with a German Shepherd can be seen searching the room. Whiteboy7thst Swatted Live On Stream

Alexander Wachs, AKA Whiteboy7thst (photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune).

In that particular situation, it was reported to local law enforcement that there was an “armed and suicidal individual” at Wachs’ address, and the police responded according to their established protocols for such a situation. While they did manage to find at least 30 grams of marijuana in his house, Wachs did not face any drug charges according to an article from the Chicago Tribune (http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/bolingbrook-plainfield/chi-whiteboy7thst-marijuana-charge-dropped-20140911-story.html). This example is one of many that has somehow ended peacefully over the last eight years or so, but Andrew Finch was not so lucky.

The worst part of this most recent Swatting horror story is that Andrew Finch did not even play video games, according to his mother, and he certainly had no idea what the police would be doing at his front door that night. In fact, the only two parties involved in this situation who could have possibly known why the police were at the Finch residence that night were in different states altogether.

Two gamers involved in a private Call of Duty match were having an argument after the match’s conclusion, over the embarrassing sum of $1.50 which had been the match wager.

Screencap from the match in question (courtesy of umggaming.com).

One player threatened to (and subsequently did) contact another player with an established history of Swatting, known online as SWAuTistic, in order to threaten the other player.

25 year old Swatter Tyler Raj Barris, AKA SWAuTistic.

For one reason or another, the player being threatened offered up an address, purportedly his own, as a destination for the Swatter to hit; it was obviously not his own address, but rather the address of the Finch residence in Wichita, Kansas. When SWAuTistic made good on his threats, calling local law enforcement and telling them that a man at Finch’s address had not only shot his father in the head, but was also holding his mother, brother, and sister hostage, a law enforcement response team was dispatched to the Finch residence. Moments after they arrived on scene, Andrew Finch opened his front door for the last time.

This story should not only infuriate us as members of the worldwide community of video game enthusiasts who, at any point in time could be subjected to the anger-fueled whims of a childish poor sport; it should also concern each and every person who is not part of the gaming community. It is baffling to even attempt to rationalize how this sort of action could be seen as a “joke” or “prank” under any circumstances. Personally, as a gamer and a gaming journalist, I cannot help but feel a modicum of responsibility for Andrew Finch’s death. We have all known about this horrific practice for years, and yet we have done little or nothing to combat its practice, or at the very least raise awareness so that these nightmare scenarios might be prevented.

Then again, how are we to stop the testosterone-driven rage of adolescent gamers whose parents would rather they sit in front of a glowing screen all day than actually be forced to spend time with their children? What measures can be taken to prevent the mind of a maladjusted, sore loser from thinking that something like Swatting is a viable and acceptable method of venting their frustrations, apart from raising them to utilize other outlets for their aggression from an early age? And even then, can we guarantee that they will listen?

At this point, I don’t believe that anyone has viable answers to any of these questions. I am sadly amazed that it took this long for something of this nature to come out of the Swatting trend. I wish that the gaming community as a whole could be a little less petty about everything in general…we are at times the most entitled, snotty little hobbyists on the face of the fucking planet, and this time, that mentality cost an innocent man his life. I hope that reflection on this incident and positive change can come from such an emotionally stagnant culture, but I’m certainly not going to hold my breath waiting.

All we can do now as a community is self-police, take personal responsibility for our own actions and emotions, try to move forward, and never forget the first man to lose his life to the whims of a guy who lost a dollar fucking fifty playing a video game. It’s stories like this one that make it harder and harder to rationalize video games as the “harmless” hobby we all know they can and should be, and I hate that my first article in months has to be about a totally avoidable tragedy that should have never happened. However, I will gladly play the part of the grim stenographer, and hope that anyone who reads this will take steps to ensure that, at least in their own existences, tragedies like this one are avoided in the future.

Stay safe out there, be excellent to one another, and ring in 2018 with an unwavering resolve to be a better human in all aspects of your life. We are only incapable of altering our pasts.

-b1nx

*As of the writing of this article, the Swatter known as SWAuTistic (real name Tyler Raj Barris of Los Angeles, California) has been taken into police custody in L.A. County on a fugitive warrant, though the actual charges Barris faces are unknown at this time.

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Polybius: A Study in Digital Mind Control

There have been countless examples throughout video game culture which have suggested that a good time was not the only intended result of a game’s programming. Strange bugs and glitches, unexplained occurrences and even specifically designed digital nightmares have been discovered or exploited in hundreds of games.

There are those which are relatively innocuous, such as the final screen in Pac-Man (known as the Map 256 glitch) that turns the final screen of the game into an unbeatable jumble of numbers and characters on one side. There are also more intense, and at times disturbing instances in some games.

Luigi’sMansion, for example, contains a “lighting glitch” in the attic of the mansion, where on a certain wall that is illuminated every so often by a flash of lightning, the player’s shadow appears to be hanging himself. Often times, these bugs are explained away by developers as simple texture errors. But in one instance, an entire game inspired not only interest and curiosity, but fear and paranoia.

The game is known as Polybius, and while it may just be an urban legend, it does raise some interesting questions about what sort of other applications video games might have in the real world.

The YouTube channel known as Ahoy has recently posted an hour-long documentary on Polybius, which can be seen here.

Ahoy goes into great detail about the game specifically in this video, and I highly recommend watching it in its entirety as well as his other content. He is by far one of the most organized and intelligent content creators on YouTube, and the sheer amount of research he put into this documentary is outstanding.

To give a brief background for the purposes of this article: Polybius was first whispered about in the media around the year 2000, but the game surfaced initially in 1981 in a suburb of Portland, Oregon during the rise of the coin-op arcade.

The story basically intimates that a handful of these machines were placed in various back alley arcade destinations, and visited regularly by men in black coats who never removed money from the machines, but rather appeared to be collecting data. People who played the game were said to have curious side effects afterwards, including physical illness, amnesia, night terrors, and behavioral changes.

After one month in circulation, the machines were all mysteriously pulled from their locations, and no further information was found regarding who had made them or why they had been removed.

At least that was the story.

There are some clues about the game which seem to suggest that the legend may have some merit: For instance, the name Polybius is taken from the name of a Greek historian whose name translates to “many lives” (who was also from a region of the Greek Empire called Megalopolis, in Arcadia). The company who supposedly created the game, Sinneslöschen, is almost proper German for “to erase senses,” or “to become senseless.”

However, given that the twenty-one year gap between the supposed introduction of these cabinets is followed by an initial mention on internet media in the year 2000, the popularization of the myth in 2003, and then a dead end, it’s relatively safe to assume that the game was no more than a myth.

Still, the existence of such a story alone makes one question how a video game could potentially affect a player’s senses and their ability to reason. Or, down a darker path, how they could be used to condition and control users.

Every video game in existence is based on some form of Pavlovian response mechanism; perform action “A,” receive reward “B.”

In the early days of the video game revolution, the reward was simple, usually amounting to nothing more than a high score which would be saved on the cabinet so long as it was not reset. Over the years, these rewards became more and more complex, as did the actions necessary to receive them. Games began offering “achievements” or “trophies” for performing specific actions within the game during the modern console era, creating an entirely new way to play many games and altering methods players might use during a standard playthrough.

In the case of Polybius, the gameplay was described as unconventional, with strange geometric shapes and patterns dancing around the interface. Since the game is almost assuredly a myth, it’s impossible to know exactly what sort of data the men in black coats could have been pulling from the cabinets. It is interesting to consider how something so subtle as what sounds to be an early version of GeometryWars could have such an impact on the human psyche.

The malevolence inherent in the Polybius legend, however, is likely enough to cause just about anyone to shy away from even hypothesizing about the game or its effects.

But what if the game in question was a tool specifically designed to teach real-world responses via a digital medium, effectively training the player to perform actions in their life or their job?

The Xbox title FullSpectrumWarrior (2004), was initially designed at the request of the United States Army’s Institute for Creative Technologies, or ICT, in conjunction with developer Pandemic and published by THQ. The ICT was tasked with making advancements in the field of virtual simulation technology, which included the proposed exploration of virtually training soldiers for combat operations.

FullSpectrumWarrior was just that: A virtual combat simulator, which limited the player’s input options to the issuance of commands to two different squads, simulating the role of a commanding officer in a live fire scenario.

An article from Popular Science on the subject contains this quote from Michael Macedonia, then-Chief Technology Officer for training and simulation in the US Army:

“We spend a lot of time and money training colonels and generals, but we’ve never had anything good like this for squad leaders.”

This sentiment seems to hold true more often than not as time passes. The modern battlefield is dominated by small squads of soldiers, and a massive array of technologically-based weaponry and surveillance devices. What better way to train the men and women of our military than a video game simulation?

UAV pilots in particular operate an interface that involves using a joystick and several buttons while monitoring a video feed from the craft, and while it may not be comfortably likened to playing a video game, training in a game world environment is an acceptable method of teaching these soldiers how to operate a drone effectively and accurately.

How can we suggest that video games are both responsible for providing valuable training for soldiers AND creating mass murderers? Doom was highly scrutinized by parents and commentators after the Columbine massacre in 1999, as both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold played the game frequently before killing twelve of their classmates with automatic weapons.

The entire GrandTheftAuto franchise (as well as pretty much anything else that Rockstar puts out besides that shitty table tennis game) has found itself the butt of extremely similar scrutiny. Then-Senator Hillary Clinton even advocated for new, stricter regulations on video game sales after the now-infamous Hot Coffee mod was released for GTA: SanAndreas.

Yet according to Peter Gray, PhD and research professor at Boston College, video games can actually increase cognitive function and perception levels. There are also a number of different studies which report similar results when testing cognitive ability in gamers:

“The best proof that video-gaming improves these abilities comes from experiments in which all of the participants are initially non-gamers, and then some, but not others, are asked to play a particular video game for a certain number of hours per day, for a certain number of days, for the sake of the experiment.  In these experiments, the typical finding is that those who play the video game improve on measures of basic perceptual and cognitive abilities while those in the control group do not.” psychologytoday.com

However, this doesn’t fully explain how it is even logical to correlate casual video game use to real-world violence. Unless you’re in the military, where your virtual combat training is specifically designed to facilitate survival and good decision making in live combat situations.

It’s precisely these assertions that make the Polybius legend so unnerving.

What if a game was implanted on modern gaming devices which was designed to manufacture a specific psychological response in the brain? Can we be sure that, even as human beings of sound mind, that we would not succumb to the whims of the programmers?

The primary speculation regarding the origins of Polybius are punctuated by references to the MKUltra program utilized by the CIA between 1953 and 1966, which was “concerned with the research and development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine operations to control human behavior.”

While this is unlikely, as the MKUltra program was officially halted in 1973 (and was primarily focused on the potential uses and applications of LSD as a form of mind control), it’s not so far-fetched to think that a similar program could still be in effect today. Especially considering how many of our day to day interactions are governed almost entirely by the internet, social media, and other technological means of interaction.

The trick is to make sure that our devices of all types, useful as they may be, remain ancillary to personal interactions with others and the world around us. That’s right, guy who just can’t seem to stop playing Candy Crush despite the fact that it’s a horrible, soul-sucking pit of a mobile game…I see you.

Just because the bell rings doesn’t mean you have to start drooling uncontrollably.

-b1nx

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Bethesda Creation Club: Who Cares?

There seems to be a big fuss over Bethesda’s Creation Club, the latest bit of content which has become available for Fallout titles and Skyrim, And I’d like to take a moment and explain why no one who plays these titles should give a shit. This article is the result of reading at least ten other articles which explain that Bethesda is evil for charging people for mods, and literally desiring to better acquaint my face with a brick wall. In a nutshell, Creation Club is an all-new, developer supported collection of mods and various add-ons for Fallout and Skyrim. Bethesda has partnered with community members for both titles who have designed the additional content, and given their creations the full backing of a developer support team. Additionally, they are charging consumers for said content based on the service that they are providing as administrators, and subsequently kicking down a portion of that revenue to the content creators themselves, not to mention creating new mods and content internally to offer through the same service.

“Well that doesn’t sound too bad,” you might be saying to yourself about now, “why wouldn’t they do that in the first place?” I couldn’t say for sure, but I’d be willing to bet that it has something to do with a company who is trying to make as much money as possible from their product not wanting to share that revenue with some nerd who made a ten hour extension mod for Morrowind. However, this is not the first time in the history of video games that something like Creation Club has come about.

In 2012, Bethesda began talks with Valve regarding the Steam Workshop, a similarly-themed portion of the Steam website which allowed for content creators to sell their mods to gamers via the Steam medium. During these talks, Bethesda was adamant that the content available on the Workshop remain free for all users:

“At every step along the way with mods, we have had many opportunities to step in and control things, and decided not to,” it wrote. “We wanted to let our players decide what is good, bad, right, and wrong. We will not pass judgment on what they do” (PC Gamer, 2015; http://www.pcgamer.com/bethesda-responds-to-outrage-over-paid-skyrim-mods/).

This suggests that Bethesda was opposed to the very insinuation that mods should ever cost players money, and further that they wanted no part in attempting to moderate a fan-created piece of content. And who could blame them? Content creators for video games in general range from advanced programming gods to junior script kiddie hacks who just thought it would be cool to make a mod for Grand Theft Auto where you can have your tits visibly flapping in the wind as you murder innocent bystanders. No self-respecting company would want any part of moderating that sort of mess. On a more product-based line of reasoning, however, this quote reflects that Bethesda, while not willing to directly moderate unlicensed add-one for their games, does have a sort of admiration for the modding community; one that says “we love the content you’re creating, just don’t ever say it came from us because we don’t want to be culpable if your shitty programming ruins little Johnny’s computer.”

Of course, there are also DRM (or digital resource management) issues to consider, especially with the ever-present issue of illegal downloading and copying of IPs. But considering that all Skyrim DLC was actually released completely DRM-free, as was the entirety of Oblivion, it’s difficult to fault Bethesda for attempting once again to further regulate additional content for their games. Especially in such a way that allows them more control over the entire process, and the moderating capacity to cut back on any liability that might fall on them as developers for faulty content.

On the other hand, there are those who for one reason or another simply aren’t satisfied with the base games that Bethesda releases (most of which have campaigns and side quests which can take gamers hundreds of hours to complete). These voices are the ones which immediately scream bloody murder any time a company even suggests that they might charge them for something that was once free, and their perspective (albeit indicative of someone with far too much time on their hands), is somewhat valid in most cases.

This particular situation, however, seems to be less dire than some in the past. Many of the mods which are available through the Creation Club are user-created, and can still be obtained via sites such as FilePlanet for any hardware platform (though it may take a little more effort on consoles). The rest are developed and maintained by Bethesda directly, for which they have every right to charge money as the content’s creators. If you really want that armor set from Fallout 3 in your Fallout 4 wardrobe, there’s nothing stopping you from purchasing it directly from Bethesda and enjoying the benefits of developer-based regulation and maintenance. There’s also nothing stopping you from going to a modding website and finding someone else’s version of the exact same goddamn thing for your character, which you’ve probably spent far too much time building anyway.

Personally, I never got into mods for games. For ninety-nine percent of the games that I play and enjoy, the base game and paid DLC are more than enough to keep me entertained. Perhaps that’s why this particular issue seems pretty cut and dry to me. But if I ever got the urge to play through some of those older titles again, and wanted a fresh take on the game, I would go and download the JSawyer mod for Fallout: New Vegas (essentially a director’s cut), or I would look into the expansive upcoming Fallout: The Frontier mod, which looks to be one of the most extensive pieces of content ever created in the Fallout series.

The point I’m trying to make here is simple: Barring any explicitly illegal activities, you can still find and use whatever mods you damn well please for these games despite the existence of the Creation Club. Just because Bethesda is attempting to make a few more bucks off of the new content they created for your favorite games doesn’t make them monsters. It makes them a business, which like all other businesses, wants to make money on the sale of the goods and services they provide. You can choose to completely ignore these mods, or you can pay money to have them. The world is your goddamn oyster. One thing is for certain; bitching about it on the internet isn’t going to change anything.

-b1nx

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First Impressions: Destiny 2

Despite issues surrounding the availability of my machine (namely its presence on a rock in the middle of the Pacific until earlier this week), and also a severe lack of time to even sit down and start working my way through the campaign, I’m currently a little over two hours into the Destiny 2 main story. Destiny 1 was an interesting journey to say the least, as players who were expecting a finished game at release were instead thrust somewhat unwillingly into what essentially equated to a three year long beta. We’ve thrown piles of money at the screen for at least that long, regardless of how much we bitched and complained about Bungie’s money-grubbing partnership with Activision, and how both parties were spectacularly ruining what could have been one of the greatest video games ever made. We’ve spent countless hours grinding away for armor, weapons and useless peripherals which have now all become obsolete. However, I think it’s safe to say that we have finally arrived, and all of our financial and temporal expenditures have led us all to this one glorious moment.

Destiny 2 is what I believe to be Bungie’s way of saying, “thanks for all of the time and energy you wasted on our extended and expensive beta, here’s the game we should have released in the first place.” While this is certainly as frustrating for you as it is for me, I don’t necessarily think that it’s overtly negative.

For starters, Destiny was always referred to as an MMO (massively multiplayer online) title, and wrongly so. While certain elements of an MMO-style experience were certainly present (the loot/equipment grind, the team-based PvE raids, etc), the game has always been a first person shooter at heart. The Crucible multiplayer aspect of the game seemed to always have more of a draw than the PvE activities, and the grind was mostly endured to ensure that your gear and weapons would give you an edge in competitive multiplayer.

One of the first things I noticed about Destiny 2 is that it feels much more like an MMO: There is a structure to the way in which you accomplish things in the game which is far more focused on actively playing with other people, and the multiplayer mode itself has been altered to feature only 4v4 matches with some new game types and a specifically labeled “competitive” mode, something that PvP players have been asking for since the first year of Destiny 1. The patrol missions and newly added activities have been restructured to make your in-game experience feel more similar to something like World of Warcraft or Elder Scrolls Online, where you must utilize every advantage you and your fireteam possess to complete tasks and obtain better gear. The game is trying to suggest in a not-so-subtle way that you’re free to play however you choose, but you’re going to have a much easier go of things if you play with friends.

This mindset is exactly what Destiny needed. The first game was nothing more than a test run to see what sort of environment the developers could cultivate, and towards the end there seemed to be a whole lot more people solo-queueing for PvP matches and lone-wolfing their way through parts of the story that they might not have finished, or that they needed to complete again to get a new piece of gear. Destiny 2 feels like a new coat of paint more than an entirely new game, but the shade is decidedly brighter than before.

It’s also worth noting that some gameplay mechanics have changed in frustrating ways; shoulder charge, for example (RIP Striker mains), is no longer a one shot kill in the Crucible, nor is sticking an enemy with a grenade. There is also the new “Arc Stripper” subclass for the Hunter, which finds them doing the exact same things as they would with Arcblade, but using an electrified staff that very closely resembles something that you might find in the living room of someone who pole dances for physical fitness.

The ammo economy has also drastically changed, and weapon slots now feature Kinetic, Energy, and Power classifications, which sets up more calculated confrontations in multiplayer and PvE alike. Aggravating as this may be for some (particularly those who spent the majority of Destiny 1 running around with shotguns and fusion grenades making everyone want to tear their tonsils out with a rat trap), it bodes extremely well for those players who are looking for an actual challenge in multiplayer.

Additionally, the gunplay in Destiny 2 feels so crispy in comparison to Destiny 1 that it might as well be a menu item at [insert reader’s favorite fried chicken restaurant here]. Every weapon type has been fine tuned for the new experience, and while the weapon classification changes move guns like sniper rifles and shotguns into the Power (formerly Heavy) weapon slot for which ammo is much more strictly regulated, the other weapons in your arsenal more than make up for the changes in their utility and improved control.

So far, I’m completely on board with the new changes and the overhaul of the beta that just wouldn’t end. Knowing myself and how I tend to cover this game series in particular, I’m sure I’ll find something that pisses me off enough to write about it sooner than later. For the time being, however, I’m going to gradually work my way through the base story missions and enjoy the feeling of not being irritated that I still play this game. At least for a little while.

-b1nx

*Twitch gameplay of the entire Destiny 2 campaign can be seen @GGT_Live every weekday afternoon at 4 PM PST.

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Destiny 2: Exactly Similar Boogaloo

Though many of us were not able to attend the Destiny 2 reveal event in Los Angeles a while back, I don’t know that there were many Destiny players who were not excited to get their hands on the Beta (save the venomous chuckleheads who tend to populate the Bungie message boards). And as one of those venomous chuckleheads, I can safely say that the Destiny 2 Beta is everything that Destiny players wanted…from the first game.

I’m certainly not suggesting that there aren’t some silver linings: As an example, I find the new PvP structure of strictly four-player squads to be quite refreshing, and a step in the right direction towards any sort of competitively viable ranked game mode. Coupled with the removal of the grind for weapons and armor with specific rolls, facilitated by making every piece of said equipment come with a fixed roll, Bungie has killed two birds with one stone; allowing for players with less free time than others to compete at every level of gameplay without feeling like they are at a disadvantage because they don’t grind for better gear rolls, and leveling the playing field in the Crucible. The question of whether there will be a large enough variety of gear to make this change seem like a smart move instead of a reduction of content has yet to be answered, but if the Beta is any solid indication of things to come, it would appear that drops have become a bit more reasonable, and the structure of the way the game rewards players with loot has changed (didn’t see much of the Cryptarch in that destroyed tower…).

The gameplay feels about the same as the first game, with only a new HUD and one new ability per class being added (which, again, would have been really nice to have the first time around); also the gunplay feels way better in both PvE and PvP. There’s also actually a story now, and I kind of feel like I might actually give a shit about more than just finding the next group of adds to mindlessly slaughter my way through in pursuit of a meaningless objective. And while it may seem initially that players are sluggish and seem to carry less power behind their attacks, it's important to remember that this is likely just a symptom of the storyline. The Traveler's light has been stolen by that massive Cabal shitbird, so it stands to reason that the overall gameplay would also be affected as a result of this, and moreover be increased gradually through progression (of which there is none in the Beta). But enough of this positive crap.

The first thing I would like to shout very loudly in the general direction of Bungie and their development team is ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THIS 1.5 SHIT? Seriously, you guys couldn’t have come up with any of these very basic improvements the first time around? Destiny felt like the Beta that wouldn’t end, and the tweaks and fixes that were deployed would typically solve their targeted problem for about a week, until somebody found something new that was broken, or irritated them enough that they felt a need to whine on the message boards about it incessantly until someone from Bungle finally got around to passing it down to the dev team. This is not to say that D2: The Mighty Bucks is going to fix every issue from the first game; people are always going to find broken shit and exploits in video games. Whether that effort is successful is solely dependent on the way in which changes are addressed and implemented, and history is certainly not on Bungie’s side there.

Secondly, again shouted loudly and somewhat more angrily, WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE TO THE HUNTER CLASS? I was never really that big of a fan of Bladedancer as a subclass in the first place (mostly because I’m truly awful at playing as one), but Nightstalker was a thing of beauty, with regard to both utility and lethality. Sure, the wombo combo was widely despised by all who encountered it in the Crucible, but it was never designed to be a PvP class…it was created for the purpose of add control in PvE, and it was perfect for it. Gunslinger, conversely, was perfectly designed for PvP, and was the most utilitarian subclass the Hunter had to offer in multiplayer. Now all I am seeing is a variation of Bladedancer which is not only shittier overall, but bound to have absolutely no use whatsoever in PvE, and a Gunslinger subclass which has been completely gutted and made incredibly useless in any game type. And don’t even get me started on the new abilities for both subclasses…a fucking dodge? Like the one we could get in Destiny simply by equipping a node in our subclass or buying a fucking helmet? You gave Titans a goddamn damage-eating wall to stand behind, Warlocks the ability to provide even more utility than they already did with healing and damage boosting auras, and the Hunters get a goddamn dodge?!?

Also, I’d like to have a moment of silence for the short-lived utility of the sidearm, as from what I’ve seen throughout this Beta, they no longer have any use at all, except perhaps trying to confuse and infuriate enemies by making them think they are being bitten by a shit load of tiny bugs. And while SMGs are an interesting addition to the arsenal, they are essentially just less stable and less effective auto rifles; kind of like what I would expect from a Doctrine of Passing with a really shitty roll. Granted, grenade launchers are amazing, and I had a lot of fun with them…but now a shotgun or sniper rifle requires the same type of ammunition? I have a feeling that one or both of those might just be switched back to the secondary slot by the time of the release, because that type of ammo economy is going to drive people up the fucking walls. Perhaps in the Crucible it makes sense, but unless the drop rates are increased substantially for “Power Ammo” in PvE, you’re going to have more than just a horde of angry Raid kids on your hands.

I know what you’re thinking…”why is he bitching so much about a Beta?” And I’m more than happy to tell you…BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN PLAYING A BETA FOR THE LAST THREE GODDAMN YEARS. Furthermore, the additions to this “new” game are already showing symptoms of the last Destiny, and no consumer who paid the ungodly amounts of money that most of us did during the first game should ever have to deal with that particular brand of fuckery ever again. To say nothing of the fact that this Beta is little more than a stress test to ensure that Bungie’s new servers (which aren’t dedicated servers and DON’T YOU DARE EVEN THINK OF CALLING THEM THAT) can handle the projected number of players who will be playing this potential piece of shit at one time. Which means that at least for the first few months after release, we will be, once again, forced into the position of paying for the privilege of being guinea pigs for one of the most unreliable game makers on the face of the fucking planet, in a game environment which is incredibly similar to the last offering, but with new and shittier problems.

All that being said, I’m still trying to figure out whether I haven’t cancelled my preorder because I’m what P.T. Barnum would call a cash cow, or because I just want an excuse to make easy content for the next three years. Tune in to GGT_Live on Twitch after release to find out!

–b1nx

P.S.–This will be the last article from GGT posted until likely the end of August…Not like I haven’t already been on a hiatus lately, but I’m going to be too busy in the next few weeks to even think about ignoring my article count. This also applies to the Twitch streams, which will resume around the same time hopefully. If you actually still read/watch this shit, I salute you; thank you for even halfheartedly supporting my shitty efforts to generate content. You’re my favorite kind of person 🙂

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Twitter: @GGT_b1nx

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