Endgame Discontent

Endgame content (also sometimes referred to as postgame content) has always been a thing in video games. What it refers to is the idea that you’ve been the main story of the game, but now that that’s over there’s more stuff for you to do if you want to keep exploring the game’s world. These are different from sidequests that are just super hard but still available to you before you beat the game: this is specifically content you’re only given access to after you’ve completed the main storyline. One of the more well-known types of endgame content include “raids” that were popularized by World of Warcraft – very hard bosses that you have access to once you’ve completed the game and have hit a high (or max) level with your character. These raid bosses can take anywhere from 3-4 hours to complete and teamwork from many different players. But they aren’t required for the main game – they’re only for people who really love World of Warcraft and want to participate in that kind of epic strategical play.

This content is a way to keep players engaged and challenged in your game after they’ve supposedly done everything they actually need to. Super Mario Odyssey, for example, only requires a certain amount of moons to beat the game – but once you have beaten it a whole bunch more moons are unlocked across all the worlds along with a completely new world. These moons are more challenging to get but are completely unnecessary if you’ve already had your fill with the game. It’s a good way for developers to add more content for people who really enjoy the game but not to overwhelm other people who play the game more casually.

The problem is that as developers are extending game length, the idea of “content” starts selling at a premium. And the emerging idea of Games As A Service (which I talked about in my very first blog post on here) had made it so developers don’t want their games to end at all. So endgame content stops being extra and starts becoming a part of the actual game which becomes a detriment to the game (and overall game design) itself.

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Souls Hard or Hardly Souls?

I took the last week off because I unexpectedly needed a bit of a break from writing, but I’m back for a new entry! Today I’d like to talk about a game series that’s near and dear to my heart: the Souls series. The main series is, of course, the Dark Souls series – but there is also Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne, as well as games that have similar styles like Nioh and The Surge. Elements of the Souls series have popped up in all sorts of other genres due to its immense popularity and it’s been one of the more influential modern series in terms of game design.

It’s also unfortunately gotten a bit of a reputation due to a certain subset of its fans. The Souls games are often heralded as a series for “true gamers” and the internet meme of “git gud” is often closely associated with it because the so-called “difficulty” of the Souls games is what lots of people like to talk about as if that’s what draws people to the series. Souls games are almost a trial by fire in the gaming world and lots of arguments have been had over whether the series needs an easy mode or a better way to get new people into the game. And since I’m a huge fan of the series, I have opinions on the subject. So here’s what I think:

The Souls games aren’t hard.

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Apology Not Accepted: The Internet’s Judgment is Final

Last Thursday night, the Dallas Fuel played the Houston Outlaws in the Overwatch League. Going into the match, it was expected that the Dallas Fuel would destroy the Houston Outlaws because the Fuel was considered to be one of the better Western teams in the league and near the top in talent. The Outlaws then ended up crushing the Fuel 4-0 and it looked really, really bad for Fuel. There was no communication, a lot of bad playing, and just in general they did not look like a top tier team.

That night after the match Felix Lengyel aka xQc – a tank player for Dallas who didn’t even play in this particular match – got on his Twitch stream (which he has thousand of follower for and is one of the more notorious and/or popular Overwatch streamers) and insulted the main tank player for the Houston Outlaws, Austin Wilmot aka Muma. Muma is openly gay, and xQc’s insult was homophobic in nature. You can see the clip of xQc’s comment here. (Warning: Graphic language in this clip.)

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The Overwatch League started this past week and it’s kind of a big deal. It’s the first real push to make e-sports into a viable, watchable event in the same vein as regular sports. Normally e-sports are focused around tournaments – a company or organization sponsors a particular team who will work together and compete in tournaments across the globe all year for money and prizes. One organization can sponsor teams for multiple different games – Cloud 9, for example, sponsors teams in Rocket League, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, and Overwatch among others. In certain genres, though, there aren’t teams and it’s just individual players who play at all the tournaments that are hosted at different conventions. Fighting games are a specific example – for tournaments like EVO it’s all individuals who are competing for the prize money.

Overwatch League is an attempt by Activision Blizzard to make e-sports more than just single tournaments that happen across the year. They’re specifically using the popularity of Overwatch as the game to launch their bid into a possible multi-billion dollar sports league that will generate revenue through thousands of fans watching the games. Like regular sports teams, the teams competing in the Overwatch League are based out of particular cities so there are “home” and “away” teams just like other sports. There are owners of teams who are forking up the cash to get the team in the league – Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, is the owner of the Boston Uprising team in the Overwatch League. If that doesn’t make you realize how big a deal this is and just what Activision Blizzard is attempting to accomplish with the Overwatch League, I don’t know what will.

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Help! I’m Playing XCOM 2 Again…

I have a love-hate relationship with XCOM 2. When it was first announced Firaxis gave the pretty strong impression that the game would not be coming to consoles. And that made sense. Despite XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within both being released on consoles, the game was a much, much bigger seller on PC. Most of their sales and profit had come from PC, while the console release was a dud.

So me being a huge fan of the first game, looked into if my PC could handle it. It turned out that my computer met the bare minimum requirements except for the graphics card. So I upgraded my graphics card so it could also handle the minimum requirements, and then waited patiently for release. And in February 2016 I got to play XCOM 2 on my computer!

And it was a mess.

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Reference Player One

A little bit ago a full trailer for the Ready Player One movie was released and let me tell you, the resulting discussion from everyone made a whole bunch of old feelings resurface. Namely just how much the book sucked and how awful a thing it is despite its popularity. If you don’t know what Ready Player One is or haven’t heard of it, here’s a quick summary: it’s the future and the actual world sucks, but there’s a virtual world called Oasis where everyone can go and be different people. The creator of Oasis hid an Easter Egg in the virtual world somewhere and whoever finds it inherits control of all of Oasis, so there are people who dedicate their lives to finding this Easter Egg so they can become the world’s most powerful person.

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The Peculiar Future Obsession of Video Gaming

Last Thursday were the Game Awards which are basically the video game version of the Oscars – a selected group of games journalists vote on the best games of different genres released over the year, along with other categories like vocal performances, soundtrack, etc. The Game Awards only loosely resemble the Oscars though as they are a work in progress. From 2003 to 2013, Spike TV produced the Video Game Awards (VGAs) and much like anything you’d watch off of Spike TV it was mostly a trainwreck every year. Spike “cancelled” the Video Game Awards in 2014, which led Geoff Keighley – a games journalist who usually produced and hosted the VGAs – to create and fund The Game Awards on his own. Since this is only the fourth year he’s done it, he is still working the kinks out of the system but it has gotten progressively more professional since Spike stopped being involved. Of course we haven’t reached Oscar level of professionalism yet though – for example, you’d never see this happen at the Oscars, but it sure did happen live last Thursday!

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Top 100 Games of All-Time: Honorable Mentions

I’ve been working on a project for a little while now and while I’m not 100% ready to start on the full scope of it yet, I’m going to go ahead and talk about it now for multiple reasons. One – just to gear myself up into this massive undertaking and by putting it out in public I’ll create some momentum. Two – because nothing else is really jumping out at me to talk about video game wise right at this moment. And three, because I love ranking things.

I’m working on my top 100 video games of all time.

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Overwatch’s Failure at Casual Competitiveness

I briefly touched on the new mobile game South Park: Phone Destroyer in the first post I did for this blog. Since then I’ve put a lot more time into it and I’m actually enjoying playing it a lot. The game itself is a weird tower defense/RPG/beat-’em-up/card collecting hybrid where you, as the New Kid, have a deck of cards that you use with your phone to summon other South Park denizens. Collecting cards and upgrade items allows you to make your cards stronger like an RPG, and the main campaign is a side-scrolling beat-’em up where the cards you summon automatically attack enemies on-screen. If you, as the New Kid, die from enemies on screen, the level ends a la tower defense – but as long as you’re alive you can keep summoning your cards over and over ad nauseum to complete the level. It’s surprisingly fun and engaging for a free-to-play mobile game as one person observing me play it actually said “wow, that looks like it needs attention like an actual game and not a phone game.”

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Movie Theory: Anatomy of an Action Scene

While I love video games, I also love movies. And I’ve unilaterally decided that every now and then, when there isn’t anything inspiring me to write an article about games, I’m going to throw in an article about one of my other loves. So I’m going to take a little break from video games today because I want to talk about movies. Specifically, let’s talk movie fight scenes. Some movies do them well. Some movies do them terribly. I’m going to share some of my favorite fight scenes from movies and explain a little bit about why I like them but also what makes them good from a cinematography standpoint.

Warning, there will be spoilers for the movies if you haven’t seen them in these fight scenes. Obviously.

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