Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Tag: gaming

More on ME: Andromeda and future projects

Yesterday, I blogged about my experience and thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda – PC after the first couple of hours of game play. There are a couple of things I want to add to that post, especially since I have seen a number of reviews wondering what the hell Bioware thought when they made the game. Mind you, these reviews are from sites that I usually find myself, if not completely disagreeing with then at least thinking they have taken it a bit too far. Those reviewers and professional players (youtube channels) I respect and who tend to be my go-to when I’m not sure about a game, all seem to agree with my take on the game so far.

If you look at some of the reviews, you’ll see folks bitching about the animation of the faces of a number of the characters. Yes, there is some issue. But to say the animation has taken a step back not only at least one generation but years of game development is to overstate the case. My take is that there are two issues. The first is that some, if not all, of the concerns will be taken care of in a first day/week patch. And let’s face it, we all know there will be such a patch. Very few major games are released now without such a patch happening.

Second, and this dawned on me yesterday as I played for a few minutes, some of the animation — especially when we get a closeup of a character’s face — is like what we had when TV shows were suddenly broadcast in HD. We see every flaw in the complexion, etc. There is one cutscene in particular where we see a closeup of Sarah Ryder and it is all facial pores, imperfections and — well — normal skin. Just not what you’re used to seeing in a video game

Another complaint I’ve seen — and this predates the early access release on Origin — is that Bioware seems to have tried to make Sarah Ryder ugly. Again, who the fuck cares? I’m not particularly fond of everything about the way the default Ryder looks but you know you? She looks normal. Not every video game character, and especially not every female character, has to be a “beauty”. Don’t like the preset character, use the customization options. And get the fuck over yourselves.

Is the game perfect? No. But no game is. Some are better than others. But for most of those who are complaining the loudest, they either haven’t played the game yet or they are like me. They’ve played some or all of the 10 hour early access and, to be honest, that doesn’t get you very far into the game and, if they really thought about it, there will be patches to deal with some of the issues they have brought up. I’m willing to wait and see what happens before passing final judgment.

So far, this Mass Effect feels more like the original Mass Effect in a lot of ways. There are things I like and some that I don’t. I look forward to truly being able to explore the game when it is released and there isn’t a time limit imposed on how long I can play.

In other news, I want to once again thank everyone’s support of Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2). I especially want to thank those of you who have left reviews. You guys are great. Please keep the reviews coming. They really help. Now I’m off to work on Nocturnal Rebellion and plot the next Eerie Side of the Tracks title. Well, actually titles. I figured out yesterday the order for the next three titles in the series (one short story as well as the follow-up to Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks) and then the next novel which will be Ciara’s story). The next book, however, after Rebellion will be Victory from Ashes (Honor and Duty series) and that one is already plotted and a very rough draft mostly written. So, busy writer am I, especially since I have a couple of editing projects I’m working on as well. That means I need to get off of the internet and get back to work.

Dishonored 2 – Initial Impressions

I am a gamer. It is one way for me to blow off steam and to escape from the muse when she won’t leave me alone. One of the games I purchased based on a recommendation from my son was the original Dishonored. It took me a while to get into the game. Stealth games aren’t ones I usually do. I’m more of a kick down doors and shoot/stab everything in sight. But, once I finally sat down and got into the game, I found it to be every bit as great as my son had said. Since then I have replayed it several times, looking at the differences between the high chaos and low chaos gameplay/plot.

So, when Dishonored 2 Limited Edition – PlayStation 4 became available for pre-order, I didn’t hesitate. I placed my order and began to anxiously await the release date. That date is officially today but, because of the pre-order, I received my copy of the game yesterday.

Now, I ordered the physical copy instead of the digital download. Even so, as with so many games these days, there was still a huge download that had to be done before the game was playable. As I waited for the download to finish, I did a little research to see what the initial reactions to the game happened to be. (Note, even though the link above is for the PS4 version, I have the PC version.) What I found was that there were a number of PC users who were having problems with the game. Worried, I checked my stats against the minimum requirements and breathed a sigh of relief. Until others started saying they had rigs similar to mine but who were having problems with things like slow cursor movement, frame rate slowing to a crawl, etc.

But I wouldn’t panic. I kept reminding myself that this rig is less than a year old and has no problem playing any of my other games. Still, once the download was done and as I started the new game, I worried. I’ll even admit to holding my breath. Which might not have been a good thing since the load screen is longer than I anticipated. VBEG

From the beginning, it became clear that the devs wanted to make Dishonored 2 a good game. There is a tutorial with Corvo and Emily to reacquaint you with basic movement and combat controls. You can skip it if you want but I recommend you go through it because there are a few minor changes. Then you get into the story. I’m going to try to be spoiler-free, so I won’t comment too much on the story. I will say this, if you have not played the Doud DLCs for Dishonored, do so.

Also, it doesn’t matter which way you played Dishonored. Unlike Mass Effect, where you choices had an impact on the following games — except when it came to the end of ME3 — the devs and writers for Dishonored 2 have devised their own canon which appears to basically follow the low chaos version of the game. (At least, that is how is seems so far.)

For this first playthrough, I am playing as Emily. I am also trying to go low chaos — of course, that is hard to do in the first chapter, before she gets her powers. Besides, I can’t help being a bit pissed off for her. So if I killed a few of the bad guys, I felt they deserved it. (Okay, I’m a bloodthirsty bitch.)

I will admit that I’m having a hard time adjusting to the new voice actor for the Outsider. There was something sinister about the original Outsider’s voice that is missing in the new one. However, it isn’t more than a little distracting. I’m sure that by the time I’m further into the game, I’ll have adjusted to it.

The heart makes a return this time as well. It still helps you find bone charms, etc., and it still gives insight into your surroundings. But there is a twist where it is concerned. One that can be a bit creepy if you let yourself think about it, especially if you are playing as Emily. I won’t say anything more — yet.

As for having problems with the game on the tech side, I haven’t. At least not yet. Frame rate seems to be running steady. I will say, if your rig is at the low end of the recommended stats, you will need to do some tinkering with your settings. The game can be a resource hog. But it is well worth it. The visuals are stunning. The story, at least so far, is interesting and I can’t wait to finish the work day so I can get back to it.

I will say to take you time, even in the first chapter when you are doing your best to avoid the bad guys. Explore the area. As with the original game, there are multiple routes you can take to get to your destination. But, if you take the time to look around, to go into buildings, etc., you will get a more complete gaming experience and more of the holes in the backstory will be filled quicker.

Over all, after playing the game for a couple of hours, it is everything I had hoped for a more. I have to give it to Bethesda and Arkane Studios for not dropping the ball. Of course, they may do just that later in the game but I am more than optimistically hopeful that they haven’t.

One word of warning. If part of your pre-order includes the free soundtrack download from Amazon, there is apparently a problem on Amazon’s end. The email you should receive says to refer to the download code — except there is none. Some folks tried downloading it and wound up being charged. Amazon is aware of the problem and working to fix it. For those who were charged, they are refunding the payment and giving them the appropriate download code. I’m going to wait a couple of days and see if they have the problem fixed. I recommend everyone else do the same.

Now, time to get to work so I can get back to gaming sooner, rather than later.

Just Say No To Sanctimonious Rants – by Kate Paulk

(Kate is my sister from another mother. She is one of the nicest people I know — until she comes across someone climbing on their soapbox without doing adequate research. That is especially true when they are trying to talk about the evils of a bit of coding and they don’t take the time to research the topic. You see, Kate’s 9 – 5 job is to test coding and tell programmers where they’ve gone wrong. Add that to a healthy Aussie sense of humor and snark and you get the following post.)

For a variety of reasons I found myself over at the site with the jammies looking at one of their subleading lights (actually, this one, to judge by the quality of the prose and the abysmal excuse for research (no, it is not research if you pull it from parts of your anatomy best not mentioned in polite society) doesn’t even rate as a dim bulb) ranting about Pokemon Go in the guise of parental advice and concern for The Children.

So I decided, screw it, I’m going to fisk.

Original text is in italics. My commentary is not.

Pokemon Go is sweeping the nation. Millions of kids and adults are wandering around town staring at their phones (even more than usual) trying to capture Pokemon monsters, or something.

Two sentences and I know where this is going. Anyone unfortunate enough to read this piece is going to be subjected to a screaming hissy fit about the Evils of Gaming and – this being nominally a parenting column (it even has Parents: in the title) – a whole lot of raving For The Children!

For the interested: take note of the verbiage here. This is a classic piece of framing the narrative, first by the hyped claims about the popularity of the game, and then the way it’s being belittled. Now, I’m the first to admit that a parenting advice column is going to have a lot of opinion in it, but taking snide pot-shots at others is, in most venues, considered bad form (of course, for a fisking, it’s pretty much de-rigeur).

Parents are thrilled that kids are out walking the neighborhood instead of sitting in front of a screen (although one could argue that only the location has changed).

 Well, yes, one could argue that only the location has changed, but one would be committing a rather grave error in fact if one did. Walking is not the same as sitting, and no amount of opinion is going to change that. Clearly, our sage advice columnist isn’t quite sage enough to avoid the trap of the dangling participle – and it’s a bracketed participle at that, which makes the error even more egregious.

Yes, the location of the screen has changed. Is she saying that kids are out sitting the neighborhood with that parenthetical asside? (okay, that was a real typo, but too apt to edit out. So “asside” stays. If you don’t like it, this is my middle finger).

 And who am I to stand in the way of kids getting out and walking?

 Oh, dear. Dearie dearie me. Megan, sweetie, better writers than you have tried that rhetorical device and failed. You are not covering yourself with glory here – and I haven’t finished wading through your first paragraph yet.

 Satire sites are having a heyday with the new app, skewering Twitter posters who have sore legs for the first time in years from accidentally getting exercise. Seems harmless, even useful, right?

 What seems harmless or even useful? Skewing complaining Twitters (or is that Twits? I might have a Twitter account but the last time I used it was two or three computers ago, so I’m really not familiar with the thing. As you might guess, I’m a tad on the wordy side)? I’m sure that’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t seem all that useful to me.

Yes, yes, all right. I know she meant that the game seems harmless or maybe even useful. But damn it, she’s getting paid for this: she could at least get the basic grammar right and not post crap with unclear antecedents.

 And so I downloaded it.

Which “it”? I’m risking the ultimate doom of every grammar snark (it being an unbreakable Rule that any snarking of grammar or spelling will have at least one egregious error), but ye gods. This isn’t an article or even an opinion piece. It’s got the same freaking cadence as the Nuremberg Rally, starting with apparently reasonable statements and ratcheting up the tension and paranoia at every turn. The address for the rally had a better speechwriter, though (and no, translations don’t do it justice. Something like that you need the cadence of the original language. Um. Excuse me while I go bludgeon my inner history nerd, my inner propaganda nerd, and my inner grammar nerd. They’re getting out of hand).

 I gave in to the peer pressure from every radio station DJ who said I had to have it.

 There is so much wrong with this sentence it transcends wrongitude. And if wrongitude isn’t a word it bloody well should be. What kind of mature adult gives into peer pressure from freaking radio DJs? I’ll concede the possibility that a lot of DJs were pushing the game (you know, Pokemon Go), either because they love it themselves or – more likely – their station was paid rather a lot to push Pokemon Go at every opportunity. I don’t listen to radio, so I wouldn’t know what’s being said.

However, on the rare occasions I find myself forced to watch or listen to ads, I am quite capable of resisting their siren call, taking said siren call and shoving it somewhere dark and uncomfortable for the advertiser. Metaphorically speaking. Methinks if the above is a factual statement, Fraulein Fox devotes a little too much time and attention to commercial media.

 My kids don’t have phones, but I thought maybe I would let them use my phone when we were out and about to capture a few Pokemon critters.

 Really? That sounds like a rather sad after the fact justification to me. You are allowed to admit you were just a teensy bit curious about this game that’s driving the whole country (to borrow your overblown rhetoric for a bit) wild, you know. People might actually have a bit more respect for you if you aren’t hiding behind a lame “oh, it’s for my kids” line.

 And shortly after installing it, I came to my senses.

 This statement is either a lie or delusional. Possibly both. You see, it’s quite possible to tell before you download and install a game what permissions it wants. You don’t have to install the thing to discover it requires you to sacrifice your first-born… Oh, in your next sentence you say it didn’t ask for your first born as a blood sacrifice, just your soul. Lame. No first-rate game asks for so little: every game company knows souls aren’t worth the effort these days. They’re all pre-mortgaged to caffeine.

 The app wants total control over my camera, my video, my GPS, my Google account, my emails, my photos, my soul and God knows what else.

Witness, all, the attempt at humorous hyperbole landing smack on its face because of the simple factual error in the first five words. The app does not want anything. In order to function as programmed, the application requires certain permissions. Those permissions do not amount to “total control” of anything. Honestly, folks, if you have to pontificate about something, it really helps to know what the heck you’re talking about, or you’ll just make yourself look like a complete idiot to anyone who does know the facts.

And while you – and everyone else – have every right to your opinion, however ludicrous it may be, you do not have the right to your very own set of facts. Reality is a bitch that way.

 Why are we all voluntarily signing up to be tracked everywhere we go?

 Ah, yes. I was right. This is indeed a Nuremberg Rally style deal, and we’re moving into the frothing hysteria. Of course, Freulein Fox doesn’t have the ability to make her audience come on the spot (yes, this is allegedly something that happened at those big swastika-enhanced dos), so instead it comes out kind of shrill and silly.

Oh, and the answer to the question? Some people think that what they’re getting in return for letting applications track them via GPS is worth the loss of privacy. You know, the everyone benefits thing that happens in a free market? Theoretically, anyway, since the only free markets around right now are kind of… er… black.

 Not only are we laying bare our every move to who knows who, it is every pedophile’s dream come true.

 Wow. I’m impressed. It took this long to bring out the pedophile bogeyman.

The who knows who part, if the app has been written properly, its data collection is limited to some kind of installation identifier that has zero connection to the person using the phone. It should communicate with every other app it uses (and the phone hardware) by a little bit of arcane software magic called an API.

And, sweetie, APIs are everywhere. They’re only insecure if they’re badly written, and they’re not about “laying bare our every move to who knows who” (incidentally, ‘who’ is likely to be ‘nobody’ unless, again, it’s written badly. Even Google’s location service doesn’t know who is holding the phone. It only knows where the phone has been. If it was turned on in the first place).

 Already teens are being lured into abandoned parking lots where they are then robbed.

 And this is different from a normal day how?

 Other outlets are reporting zombie-like people, not paying attention to anything but their phones, wandering onto private property without realizing it, blocking driveways and scaring people.

Apparently there are some pretty wussy people out there, if someone obsessed with a phone is scary. Oh, and this is different from a normal day how?

 (In Texas, Missouri, Arizona and anywhere else with castle laws, this could be a deadly activity since homeowners have the right to use deadly force on trespassers.)

 Error of fact. And a damn great big one, at that. Every state with a castle law has this concept called “reasonable force”, and killing trespassers who aren’t brandishing a weapon at you and posing an imminent threat doesn’t count as ‘reasonable’ anywhere that actually has a functioning rule of law (I am aware this rules out much of Chicago, Detroit, and a variable and ever-expanding radius around certain politicians).

False assertions work against propagandizing, Freulein. There needs to be enough fact underpinning your claims to make them believable. This particular little gem fails on every count and is likely to be believed only by raving leftists and paranoiacs. Maybe. If they’re having a particularly bad day.

 Kids don’t need Pokemon Go to get exercise because they should be spending their days up trees and at the beach and hiking in the woods.

 So just what is the difference between spending your day up trees and at the beach and hiking in the woods while playing a game on your phone and doing exactly the same thing while not playing a game on your phone? In terms of exercise gained, buggerall. In terms of interaction with like-minded souls, well… Sweetie, not all kids have the good fortune to have friends in their neighborhood. Are you going to keep them from interacting with their friends who live hundreds of miles away because you believe this game is a bad thing?

If you are – and the whole damn article is nothing but a badly disguised rant on the topic of “phone games Bad. For The Children!Eleventy!” – then you should fit right in with everyone else trying to force the rest of the world to follow their enlightened ways because “It’s for your own good”.

What happened to limiting screen time as much as possible?

 It turned out that, like everything, balance works better. You know, mixing it up a bit.

 It’s not good for human brains!

 Someone would appear to have mixed up the problems that come from passively soaking up the content of the idiot box (which, again, is perfectly fine in moderation, and doesn’t even need to be rationed as long as there are plenty of other enjoyable activities around) and having no parental discussion of said content with the rather more engaged processes that go with computer games of all flavors.

 Study after study shows this is true.

 Then why, my dear, did you neglect to reference more than one or two rather sub-par articles about such studies?

Electronics interfere with sleep cycles, are connected to depression, and contribute to the general malaise plaguing children who can’t seem to get off the couch.

And yet you rant against a game that works to get children up off their duffs and outside in the debatably fresh air. Which is just the beginning of the things wrong with your assertions.

To start with, those studies you’re referencing are looking at excess or outright stupidity. Of course if you leave an electronic device that lights up (however dimly) in your bedroom you’re going to affect your sleep pattern. In the immortal words of damn near every teenage girl ever, “Duh”.

As for the connection to depression, it’s rather clear you’re not actually reading it, Megan. Otherwise you’d have realized that the researchers don’t know if the connection is causal, much less which direction the cause runs. In smaller words, that means depressed people could be playing games to distract themselves. You know, the same way in times past depressed people would do things like read?

As for the “general malaise” claim, believing everything someone on the internet says is a really bad idea. Honestly, this sentence reads more like the kind of scam that uses links to scary-sounding articles to convince some sucker… customer to buy the kool-aid.

 Have parents abandoned their inherent distrust of screens? When did that happen?

Let’s do a little word replacement exercise here, shall we? On second thoughts, let’s not. Just imagine what it would look like if you replaced “parents” with “Germans” or “blacks” or “whites”. And “screens” with “Jews” or “whites” or “blacks”. If you still think this isn’t hysterical ranting, you need remedial English.

 Now, the newest electronic craze seems sure to send your child directly into harm’s way.

 Hardly. Kids who were glued to their phone screen before Pokemon Go will do the same dumb stuff as they did before installing the game. And that’s before applying the commonsense filter of “the media will link anything they can to the hot new craze to get clicks” otherwise known as exactly what our good author is doing here: using the game in a title as clickbait for an otherwise bald and unconvincing tirade.

 If you still think Pokemon is a must have for this summer, think again.

 Oh, the assumptions buried in this one sentence. The judgment. The rancid, unmitigated superiority. Ye dogs, the poor perv this author found jacking off to porn in a public library (not something I would normally approve of – or ever, really) should have withered and melted under her steely glare. Or something.

 Do your kids a favor and give them a 1985-style summer.

 Someone’s got to say it. Judging by the tone of the article, this should be a 1984-style summer, under the benevolent, watchful gaze of Big Sister.

Drink out of the hose, ride your bike just for the pleasure of the wind in your face, and leave the phones at home.

These are my middle fingers. I will do what I think is appropriate, and you madam, can take your sanctimonious pap and shove it right beside that massive stick you have up your fundamental orifice.

 (For the curious – the original article can be found at https://archive.is/mVtNX)

***

Amanda here, now.

I wanted to add a quick counterpoint to the original article as well. What the author seems to overlook is that Pokemon Go! can and is being used as a socialization tool. Families that weren’t spending all that much time together, and especially not outside, are now going on hunts together. Communities are putting together activities for all ages so they can hunt those ever elusive Pokemon, find Pokemon gyms, etc. Yes, there are some areas asking you not to hunt on their grounds and I have no problem with it. But zoos, parks, even some museums are greeting those who are using the app with open arms and encouraging them to attend events at their locations.

In other words, as with everything, the key is educating yourself and your kids and using common sense.

One more quick note, for those of you who don’t know, Kate is also an author with a wicked sense of humor. The series we are all after her to write more in is her Con series. I’ve linked to the first book in the series below.

ConVent (The Vampire Con Series Book 1)

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

Revisiting an Old Friend

I love video games. I’ve never made a secret of that. They are what I do in the evening when watching TV with my mother. (Frankly, it is the only way to keep my sanity when she wants to watch her reality TV.) I sit on the sofa with my laptop and am able to do something I enjoy while keeping her company. That’s very important now that she is getting older. Anyway, I digress.

Because of various reasons, I wound up doing a clean install of my gaming laptop a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I backed up my saved game files. But, as I reinstalled some of my favorite games, it gave me the chance to consider whether I wanted to throw those save files onto the HD or start anew. With a couple of games, like Dragon Age: Inquisition where I am still working for 100% completion, and Borderlands 2, I opted not to do so. I still have the files backed up but, if I wanted to play the games again, why not start off clean?

And that brings me around to the reason for this post. Earlier this week, I started replaying the Mass Effect games, starting with the original. Yes, I’ve already played them all several times. Yes, I know the so-called problems with the ending of ME3. I don’t care. Bioware did something very right with this series, something that lets me return to it from time to time and still enjoy playing it.

It cared enough to give us a story we can lose ourselves in. That is why so many people screamed and yelled and pitched a fit over the way ME3 ended. We had lived and breathed as Commander Shepherd, metaphorically speaking, for so long, we couldn’t accept the way the trilogy ended. Even when Bioware issued the “fix”, it wasn’t enough. It was better but, damn it, we wanted Shepherd to live and be reunited with her crew and her love.

Yes, her. That is something else Bioware did right, as it often does. It allowed you to spec out Shepherd to be male or female, gay or straight, good or bad. It let you become invested in a character you would spend hours and hours with over the course of the three games and the various DLCs. I played the games as male and as female. I’ve played as gay, straight and who-gives-a-damn. I’ve played it as good and bad.

So I’ve returned to the Mass Effect universe. This time, I’m playing as a female Shepherd. It’s still too early into ME to decide if I’m going to be good or bad, much less to decide who I’m going to romance — if I romance anyone. And you know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying myself and that’s all that matters.

I’ll admit, sitting down with ME1 is a little frustrating. The graphics aren’t as sharp as newer games and the gameplay is a bit dodgy at times. But it doesn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game. That’s especially true because I hadn’t played the original Mass Effect in something close to three years. That means I don’t remember where everything is and there are times things happen that surprise me. So my decisions won’t be the same as the last time I played it.

I’ll admit something else as well. ME1 is probably my least favorite of the series. But that’s okay, I still enjoyed it. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be replaying it now. In my opinion, the game suffers from the same issues many first entries in a series — book or film or game — often do. It has to build the history and foundation for the series. Bioware does a pretty good job with that part of it. With newer game engines for ME2 and ME3, the gameplay became more fun.

Of the games, ME2 is my favorite. More on that when I start replaying it. Until then, there are Reapers to defeat and plots to uncover. Who knows, there might even be a romance or two to enjoy along the way.

wallpaper-021-femshep-p

 

Some thoughts on gaming and a review

I admit upfront that I am a gamer. I got into it when my son was young and all his friends were getting game systems. We started with a used NES — and I wish I still had it. Over time, we graduated to the Playstation and then the PS2 and XBox. Well, you get the idea.

The reason I started gaming was simple. I viewed games like I did the movies he saw and the books he read. If it wasn’t something I was already familiar with, I wanted to make sure it was suitable. No, it wasn’t so much that I was trying to censor what he was doing. What I wanted was to be able to answer any questions he might have as a result of reading/seeing/playing something. The only way I could do that was to have read/seen/played the item in question.

What I discovered was that I enjoyed gaming. It was a good outlet after a bad day at the office. More than that, it gave my son and I something we had in common, something the two of us could share. Over the years, that has continued and even now, with him overseas, we still discuss games and game developers.

Like a lot of gamers — and I am afraid that the gaming industry is forgetting about us to an extent — I love single player games. I enjoy playing co-op when I’m in the same room with friends but MMOs are not my cup of tea. That’s probably because I don’t look at gaming as a social activity. It is my way to unwind and have some fun or to blow off some tension.

Because my son gets this, he has, over the years, recommended a number of games for me to try. Several years ago, he recommended I try a new game that had just come out. That game was Borderlands 2. Damn but I loved that game. Heck, I still do. It is my go-to game when there’s nothing new I want to play. Part of it is the story. Part is the fact that I like the playable characters. A lot of it is the irreverent humor in it. I loved the cell shading on it and the fact that each successive play-through with a character was more difficult. If I were to score the game, I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10. The only reason it wouldn’t get a 10 is because there are a few minor glitches that occasionally pop up to drive me crazy.

Anyway, when I finished the first play-through, my son and I discussed the game and he said he was a little hesitant to recommend the first installment in the series. Borderlands was good, he said. He enjoyed it a great deal. But, unlike Borderlands 2, its story was not as well-developed. It was more a series of missions that weren’t really tied all that well together. I considered what he said and decided not to buy Borderlands until it was on sale.

Eventually, I did get the game and its DLC. My son was right. It’s a good game but not nearly as good, at least in my opinion, as Borderlands 2. I’ve played it through a couple of times as different characters but I don’t feel the need to keep trying to play with all the characters and on different difficulty levels. Borderlands 2, like the Mass Effect series (even with the awful ending of ME3), is a game I have tried to hit 100% completion with at least a couple of the characters. I haven’t quite gotten there because some of the bosses are near impossible to beat on your own.

So, when 2K games and Gearbox announced that there would be a new Borderlands game coming out, I was excited. I wanted to see what they had in store for the Vault Hunters next. Like many folks, I was a bit confused when they announced it would be a pre-sequel, falling between Borderlands and Borderlands 2. There was a touch of concern when that announcement was accompanied by news that 2K Australia would be doing the game instead of the studio that had done the first two. Yeah, I hate change.

Then we stated being treated to game footage and it took place on the moon. Low gravity + butt stomps = lots of fun. Add in lasers and where could it go wrong?

Unfortunately, for me, the game is not what it should be. Don’t get me wrong. It is a good game. The mechanics of the game and the new weapons are great. The problem comes with the plot. Maybe the fact that I’m a writer comes into play here. But this game falls in-between Borderlands and Borderlands 2 in more ways than — I think — the developers meant. While game play is fun, the story and characters are not as well developed as in Borderlands 2. I’ll give you that they are better done than in B1, but that really isn’t saying all that much.

Here’s the issue I have — and here is your spoiler alert.

This game comes very close to making Handsome Jack, the villain of B2, a sympathetic character. You see him spiral from someone trying to do what is necessary to protect the innocent into the madness of revenge as he is betrayed by — SPOILER ALERT — the good guys from B2. Since I tend to look at over all story arcs, this threw a real wrench in the works when you look at B2.

But there is another problem. If you were to pick up all three games and play them in order, there is a warning at the end of Borderlands the Pre-Sequel that you would expect to be taken up in Borderlands 2 — as well as characters and species you would expect to be included in the game — that are completely missing. As in they aren’t even mentioned. If it was a book series, you’d swear the editor dropped the ball.

All that said, as a standalone game Borderlands the Pre-Sequel is a very good game. It is fun and the game play is above average. Yes, there are a couple of escort missions — which I hate. There are a few areas where fast travel stations are too few and far in-between. But overall, this is a game I’d recommend. If I had to score it, it is a solid 8.0.

Now, if they would only come out with Borderlands 3. There are all those vaults still out there to be found and all those plot lines from the Pre-Sequel to be dealt with.

Random Thoughts

It’s Monday and my brain wants it to be the weekend still. There isn’t enough coffee to get it jump started which is a problem because I have a to-do list as long as I am tall. One part of that list is to blog. So, instead of trying to tackle anything too heavy today, I thought I’d link to a couple of articles I found and make a few comments. Hopefully by the time tomorrow rolls around, my brain will have decided to report to work and I can get back to some serious blogging — and writing.

First up is an article, one of several I’ve seen of late, asking what we need to do to “dispel the bias” against girls in science and math. Now, this is nothing new. If you’ve paid any attention to education-speak and the like, you’d know that this is something studies have been looking at for years. There have been a number of solutions put forth — everything from setting up girls-only schools to applying affirmative action to the placement of girls in science and math tracks in college.

Get Girls Interested While They’re Young , the author asks “How can we convince girls that it’s acceptable and “cool” to pursue a degree in physics or computer science? How can we prove to them that pursuing careers in STEM fields does not mean that they must eschew their interest in fashion or pop culture?”

Well, that’s simple. First of all, we need to alter the way public school teaches. Teachers need to be given the ability to make a class fun and to adjust the curriculum for each student based on that student’s needs. We need not to funnel kids into courses based on sex or race or size or the fact they like purple bubble gum. In short, we need to stop teaching to the test and teach for education’s sake again. Get rid of “No Kid Left Behind”.

Knowing I will possibly get hit for this next comment, we need to make sure that those who are being home schooled are getting a quality science and/or math education. Just as not all teachers are created equal, not all home school parents/instructors are created equal. We have our own talents and likes. As a former teacher, I can tell you how difficult it is to teach something you aren’t comfortable with or don’t like.

Most of all, we have to make the courses relevant to the kids. Show them what they can do with the knowledge. Make it fun — be the students boys are girls. And, most of all, get away from the stereotypes about who can do what best.

Along that line is this article from USA Today. According to the article, women make up 60% of “players on mobile devices and are more likely than men to play mobile games, especially multiplayer games that involve social engagement such as Words With Friends and Draw Something.”

So, taking this knowledge, schools from elementary on should be showing girls how to make the games they like. Teach them the math and science needed. Engage them in ways to learn how to build the hardware necessary to run their games — or to create new hardware/software for even more games. In other words, find out what interest girls and use that interest to help engage them in fields that have been traditionally male. Don’t start applying yet more government oversight and rules mandating how many girls should be accepted into a college math or science track.

Now, being skeptical about our current administration and its ability to figure out anything that’s going on, you can imagine my reaction when reading about the attempted cyberattack the White House says was discovered and stopped. The report says it was an unclassified network that was attacked. An unnamed source — don’t you just love those — says the attack came from China but the administration isn’t confirming. Heck, the administration isn’t saying much of anything other than to reassure everyone that no harm was done.

Why do I keep flashing to an image of White House personnel, from the Secret Service to the V-P, standing in the Oval Office telling us all to move on, that there’s nothing to see here? Maybe because the administration has proven to be soooooo accurate and trustworthy in telling the American people about what happened in Libya on 9/11? Nah. Surely they wouldn’t be that foolish again. Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath.

And then, for today’s mind-killer, I give you the Governator. I’d swear that the last few days there’s been as much, or more, coverage of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new book than there has been of world events. If I hear one more clip from him trying to explain away how he had not just one but many affairs while married to Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger and how he was just too embarrassed to tell her about the child he fathered with another woman, I may have to hurl. Not because he is trying to justify what he did and not because she apparently knew about at least some of the affairs and stayed with him anyway. That’s their business. No, I’m sick to death of the media thinking that stories like this are news. They aren’t. They belong on the gossip pages.

Wait, silly me. That is what the news is these days. Reporters have forgotten that they are to report the news, not make it. They are more interested in shaping public opinion than in being dispassionate about what they report. And then the MSM wonders why so many folks are no longer reader newspapers and magazines and don’t take their TV/radio reports seriously.

Well, that’s the end of this round of random thoughts. Did anything catch your attention today?

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