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About Forte

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  • Birthday 11/23/1990

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  1. If it isn't obvious by the fact that the huge majority of my posts are in the gaming forum, I love video games. I've been playing video games since I was two years old when my half brother gave me an NES for Christmas, along with his entire game library. Ever since, I've enjoyed a wide variety of video games, and I've really enjoyed watching the games industry grow up... though some things are a bit of a let down, like how cash-cow franchises release a new game every year, and then it's just the same old thing. Recently though, I notice a lot of people talking about games as art, or games as an artful experience. Upfront, I'm gonna go ahead and say that as long as books are considered art, and movies are considered art, there's no reason to say that video games aren't a form of art. They cross an interesting boundary, of course, since it takes the hands of so many different people to make one video game, and honestly, every facet of a video game can be considered art in and of itself, even coding. The thing that has come up lately, though, is people I talk with seem to consider video games sort of a lesser art. Just today, I had a conversation with someone about storytelling in video games, and he asserted that video games are not on the level of movies or books because the stories presented in them don't affect us in the same way as movies or books - we don't feel empathy for characters, especially when the game immerses us in a world where the very concept of death isn't permanent. I can agree with this wholeheartedly, most story heavy games are RPGs, and the most widely known RPGs are Final Fantasy games. One of the most well known RPG deaths is Aeris, from Final Fantasy 7, and of course, the biggest problem with dying in Final Fantasy is "why didn't you just use a phoenix down?" I can understand how people use this argument to say that using death as a meaningful plot device is stupid in a video game, but I have two counterpoints for that: 1. Why is the "death" of a fictional character any more or less effective if the means to revive them are there but are not used/are not effective in a video game, in comparison to a book or a movie when an equally fictional character dies? I know people who have cried after reading Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows, and that's over the death of two fictional dogs that aren't represented visually. The ability to revive a character through any form of miracle, magic, or science is technically always available to an author. 2. Why do we consider "death" by the player's action (or inaction) canon or even death at all? If a character in Final Fantasy hits 0 HP in a battle, why do we consider it death and not unconsciousness or incapacitation? Even if it is death, we know that as far as the story is concerned, that never happened, especially since we can consider Final Fantasy very much not a player authored story. Compounded with this is the comparison that I've heard many times over, including the conversation I just mentioned - video games have not reached the level of Citizen Kane. I'm not a film snob and I will never claim to be. My favorite movies are among some that would have me laughed out of a film appreciation class, though I will always admire and respect the works that are considered classics of the motion picture industry. Having seen Citizen Kane, I recognize it for what it is - truly one of, if not THE first movie to treat itself like a movie and not like an animated storybook. It took full advantage of the fact that the viewer would be able to see and hear the story that they would otherwise be reading. The film showed a clear descent into greed and partial madness of Kane and pushed symbolism the likes of which great novels had done previously. However, to set video games in the light of Citizen Kane is the same as setting any other film in the light of great works of literature - it is comparing apples to oranges. Considering that the topic was story to begin with, obviously what we want to see from a video game for it to be on the level of great literature or film is a story that is told by taking full advantage of the medium. A book alone can tell a story. Visuals are what set movies aside. For games, it's gameplay - it is the player's immersion into the world on that extra level, to believe that they are the player, or at the very least, to believe that they are there with the player, being a guiding hand to their decisions. Our literature teachers will tell us that great literature is set aside from lesser works by the use of symbolism to convey a somewhat hidden meaning that the author wanted the reader to get to, and we'll consider the same true for movies. I firmly believe that video games have long since reached this point, and that as a society, and as far as the world of art criticism goes, people are too old fashioned or deluded by the constant production of games starring senseless violence to believe that there are any video games that truly provide the kind of experience or emotional investment that a book or movie could provide. My favorite example to use for this is the Mother series, specifically Mother 1 and Mother 3. Mother 2, known to the west as Earthbound, is a bit of a break from the heavier tones and themes in Mother 1 and 3, and honestly, the greatest example is Mother 3 (although I found myself very emotionally involved in Mother 1, to the point of actual tears at several moments). Released in 2006 in Japan only, Mother 3 goes unnoticed probably mostly because of its limited release area. The game itself focuses on things that typically wouldn't be suspected in such a cute game, and it does it in ways that the uninformed observer would be mostly oblivious to, including homosexuality, humane treatment of animals, the effect of the media and government in people's lives, treatment of the elderly, materialism, environmentalism, and a host of other issues. Each of these is examined comically, to the point that a child could enjoy the game fully without their parents needing to worry about them being introduced to any adult concepts too early - literally the exact same kind of family friendly entertainment that heavier movies were considered during the early days of film. As mentioned earlier regarding death, Mother 3 shows the player almost instantly that death is indeed permanent in the game, and also puts a sense of helplessness into the player. The mother of the main character, who is also the wife of the character you play as at that point in the game, is killed by a horrifying science experiment on her way back home through the forest with her two children. To anyone married, especially husbands, this moment actually has real impact, since during the time that she needed help, you (the player) had been controlling Flint, her husband. The feeling of guilt, as if there may have been some way to avoid this outcome had he acted differently, is extremely real, and the actions of the characters convey it perfectly. Death caused by the player, however, is clearly shown to be incapacitation, or more accurately, exhaustion, further conveying that death in the game world is permanent. We've crossed that first hurdle within ten minutes of gameplay - we now have characters that we can feel for, even though the graphics are SNES quality sprites. Sound effects and other game overlays, such as weather effects and music, are used perfectly to enforce emotions, just like in any good film. So we've covered symbolism and storytelling, along with taking full advantage of the visual and audio aspects. Is gameplay conducive to the story? Well, at first, no. Not at all, actually. Nowhere does the gameplay really immerse you as you the player until you feel like you're Lucas or any of the other main characters. However, if you analyze the gameplay a bit deeper, along with how you as the player are credited at the end of the game, I've theorized that the player in the Mother series is actually the god of that universe. At the beginning of the game, a character asks Flint to pray at an altar, at which point the player is asked to enter their name. This is standard of the Mother series, to ask the player for their name, typically so that it can be used later, especially in the credits. However, Mother 2 and 3 are the only ones that use it in the sort of diety-esque position that it is used in. in Mother 2, the player is the final blow against Giygas, the final boss. The player's attack is the strongest by far, and saves the protagonists, as well as winning the game. The player's power is called upon by prayer. In Mother 3, after the credits, in total darkness, you can talk to the many people who had been living in the game. You would expect to be playing as Lucas, but they refer to you by your name, and thank you for saving everyone. So in a very abstract way, the games do actually involve the player in a more thought provoking way. Technically, since you hold their world in your hands, and your decision to stop playing effectively does end their universe, then you are a huge part of the story from a gameplay standpoint. There we have it. Mother 3 represents one of the myriad games that could easily be considered the pinnacle of the medium thus far. There are many others that address the same sort of themes and go about it in deeper, more symbolic ways, many of which I haven't played or simply haven't played enough. The final stone in my argument is how we treat video games, even as players. When people criticize traditional art, or books, or music, or movies, they observe/listen/read/watch hundreds of times. Sometimes, generations are spent, the minds of hundreds of people are put together, to analyze paintings or to agree on symbolism in a book. However, when we play video games, we typically play them once. Many will write a quick review of a video game shortly after it comes out, as has become popular in recent years. These reviews are mostly just to help people decide if they want to buy the video game, and often are written after the game is played for only a few hours. Even on my fastest playthrough, it has taken me a bit more than 13 hours to complete Mother 3, and I've run through the game four times. The question is, why do we not do that for more video games? Why don't we bother treating them like art if we're willing to say that they haven't reached the level of other media? I believe if such effort actually went into them, people would find a lot to talk about in video games outside of their kill/death ratio and whether or not video games directly lead to violence. If we would simply treat video games as if they were extremely long movies, play them over and over, and put the game under a microscope, we might just find that a lot of video games are on the level of classic movies and literature. Feel free to input your thoughts or discuss video games that you consider truly on the level of fine art.
  2. The problem with Internet Explorer isn't so much its resource intensiveness, it's its relative insecurity. There's still a lot of unpatched holes in Internet Explorer, and those holes are enough for malicious intent to get through to you... even though that's pretty unlikely. A lot of people praise Chrome for its sleek design and overall useability, which is pretty much on par with Firefox, though, in recent years, Firefox has kind of fallen from grace in my eyes. I still use it, hoping for the day to come when it's the greatest browser there is again, and because to me, there is no better alternative. Google created Chrome, and I do not trust them. I try (unsuccessfully) to avoid using Google search, and I block as many of their services and cookies as I possibly can. I've even disabled basically all of their apps on my phone. I do not agree with their ceaseless collection of user data, and you better believe that if you're using Chrome, Google knows every last detail of your browsing, from sites you visit, to the frequency you visit them at, to what you shop online for. That kind of stuff doesn't sit well with me at all. As for your log in issue, I use Windows 7 professional, and by default that was not enabled for me. Is the computer you're getting that issue with a laptop? I know that factory default installations on laptops often love to have worthless features like that auto-enabled, I guess to cause people grief? As a slight addendum to demonboy's post, the Check Box that says "on resume, display log-in screen", that box should be unchecked. For future reference as well, you can always just right click your desktop to get to the Appearance dialogue from the menu that pops up when you click.
  3. Well, I can't disagree with you. I don't like to think about it too much, but a good deal of the American public is complacent and really will believe poorly told lies before they believe the obvious truth. The collective imagination of the American people is pretty strong, too, or at least it used to be; the public reaction to the War of Worlds broadcast was great. I think that overactive imagination, or at least that "what if" still exists. If you read some of the comments from NASA's scientists regarding the 2012 end of the world, it's almost on the same level. People seriously asked these scientists if they should kill themselves, their children, or their pets. I don't really know how I would feel if someone called to ask me that over something that has no basis in science, or most people's religion, for that matter. At least Area 51 has a background in science. The idea of super advanced technology right under our nose is really exciting, and to think it comes from a foreign planet is even moreso to some. I personally find the truth of Area 51 a lot more fun than the alien conspiracies, mostly because I don't believe in aliens, but if I did, I really would like to think that as an intelligent and civilized society, we wouldn't capture travelers from across the cosmos and steal their science without even writing them a letter home. Most scientists agree that contact with another sentient lifeform from anywhere in the universe would be the most important thing to ever happen - I would hate to think we would just botch it up in such a preposterous way. On top of that, look at what we know when one of our planes goes down. Then look at what we do when it happens: check its last known position, search and rescue, retrieve the flight logs, review the mistakes that lead to the crash. If we assume that the technology to cross the universe is essentially cars to the people of an alien race, then theoretically we should have had more crashes here, or actual contact. If we assume that technology is reserved for important members of their society, when one went down, they would have known - there's no way they couldn't have. They would have known just as much as we know about one of our own planes, and they would have probably followed our same pattern as long as life and learning is valuable to them. Repeated (and always false) sightings of UFOs aside, I'm of the assumption that we've seen no such search and rescue operation. To me, it's much cooler to think about the things that real scientists develop at Area 51. It doesn't take long for top of the line technology to come out of the military and into consumer use after it's declassified. Things we think are science fiction could very well be in development in any number of secret installations, and there's a lot I wouldn't mind seeing come true.
  4. There's an interesting thing about conspiracy theorists, and that's that even if someone comes out and tells them the straight truth, no strings, fully backed up with evidence, they'll still believe what they want to believe. There's a lot of reasons for that, for some people, they seriously think things like that - that in the 40s a piece of alien technology crashed in Roswell, killing its pilot and essentially founding a secret alien research base in the desert somewhere. For others, it's just a fun thought to play with, sort of a though experiment, if you will. For others, it's a cultural thing. Roswell is a large and important city in New Mexico, but New Mexico itself is not a very popular state. Most people don't know much about it outside of that one incident. Even if it is a farce, which it most probably is, it's part of Roswell's history as a city. The same goes for Area 51. Nevada has one big thing going for it without Area 51, and that's Las Vegas. It is probably important to the people of Nevada to have a location that is so ingrained into the public consciousness. As for your statement regarding the United States' government, well, the fact is they have given the answers that people wanted from them, and as I mentioned before, the answers were not good enough for people who honestly want to be told there's alien spacecraft captured there. It's common knowledge that the United States government conducted nuclear weapons testing in those desert areas, there has been publicized information regarding secret aircraft construction and testing from that location, and in June of this year the name "Area 51" was essentially canonized by the government in a release under the Freedom of Information Act. If you know anything of US history, you'll know that President Truman tried to intimidate Josef Stalin with America's newly gained nuclear power, but Stalin already knew because there was a Soviet inside man on the Manhattan Project. The United States' secrecy and protectiveness of the goings on at this military base isn't a matter of hiding the truth of non-existent people from other worlds, it's to hide the truth of our greatest military technology from those who would use it against us or the rest of the world. It begins to fall within the realm of the government wanting us to believe there's a conspiracy. The more people are convinced that there's alien technology there, the more those people will demand answers, and then when the mundane truth is given to them, it's a lie to everyone except the people who knew it was true in the first place. I am entertained at your assertion that this sort of thing is a purely American trait. Believing that the mundane and often easily explained is part of a larger plot is a very human thing - it encompasses all races, religions, and ethnic groups. Are you truly above wanting to believe something was as simple as it is?
  5. I've overlooked posting an update to this for a while, Spiral Knights has long since updated and my review is a bit outdated. Let's look at a changelog! Forgot when this happened, but I can give a rough estimate of Summer, 2013. Spiral Knights did away with the Mist Energy system altogether, making the game 100% free to play for as long as you want, as often as you want. Unlimited exploration of the Clockworks is a huge reason to want to play the game, since this allows you to get money a lot faster, and possibly even find those fabled rare item drops deep within the Clockworks. From an economic standpoint, one would assume that essentially unlimited money would drive up the price of Crystal Energy due to Crown inflation, but the developers actually thought this through and changed another important feature of Crystal Energy - alchemy. As I mentioned in my first post, Alchemy is a huge part of advancing in Spiral Knights, since the game itself has little concept of player level (outside of Mission Level, which we'll get into a bit later) and used to be done with Crystal Energy at an alchemy machine with a recipe. For a player who doesn't wish to pay to play this free to play game, alchemy was once a dreaded experience, resulting in having to spend almost 40,000 Crowns on upgrading one piece of equipment, a real hurdle to cross when your playtime was limited to 10 levels a day in the best case scenario. In this update, however, the developers introduced Orbs of Alchemy, items which are mission rewards or that can be found as drops in the Clockworks, that allow players to create new weapons and armor without the use of Crystal Energy. While it may take some time, players are now able to craft weapons and armor much faster than before, with much less cost to them. Even getting full 5 star gear (the highest level gear) is extremely easy at this point. However, for every good idea, there has to be one bad one, right? Right. Forging items is also a new mechanic introduced with this update. Previously, as I mentioned in my first post, when a player collected Heat Energy, their weapon was automatically leveled up, to a maximum of 10. Under the new Forging system, however, a player must collect Heat Energy, level their weapon up completely, and then forge it with Forge Crystals, which, like Orbs of Alchemy, can be found while adventuring in the Clockworks or be collected as rewards from missions. Unless you remember to forge your weapons and armor when they reach maximum heat, all heat collected for that piece of equipment is essentially wasted. Unfortunately, Forge Crystals are few and far between, so upgrading your weapons is a rare event unless you spend a lot of time grinding for the Forge Crystals themselves. A recent update has added in crafting recipes for Forge Crystals, which allows a player to create Forge Crystals of a lower level from higher level ones. Personally, I think it would make more sense to be able to create higher level crystals from a lot of lower level ones, but this system at the very least does give players the opportunity to make use of Forge Crystals they don't need yet. Another new system is one that feels vaguely similar to a level system, which I alluded to earlier. For some time now, Spiral Knights has had a mission system in it, in which players gain prestige and new items (typically recipes). As you gain prestige, your rank as a Knight goes up, similar to a level in most other MMOs. Previously, this ranking meant very little, since with high level friends, players would technically be able to go anywhere in the Clockworks they wished, but when this update was introduced, the ability to wear Four and Five star equipment was limited to higher ranks (though, not too high, so for players who had been big on missions, this update went completely ignored). Due to the ease of creating new weapons through alchemy that the Orbs of Alchemy brought, this sort of level based equipment system makes a lot of sense, since it encourages players to complete the missions rather than just grinding money to buy/create more powerful equipment. Overall, Spiral Knights' changes have made it a more viable game, especially since players can now play as long as they wish with no limit on what they can do. Remarkably, the game's economy has gone completely unchanged, and the price in in game currency of Crystal Energy has remained stable. There's a few downsides to this new change, as I noted before with the Forge system, and to a lesser extent, the ability for players to really aid each other with Crystal Energy trading. Teamwork seems to have taken a backseat with this set of updates, which is a bit of a bummer since the game's teamwork aspect, while poorly executed, was really begging to be patched up instead of almost completely removed. The changes are positive enough for me to recommend this game to anyone who wants to try something different and free on Steam.
  6. Nintendo's latest entry into the Pokemon franchise came to 3DS systems on October 12 - Pokemon X and Y.Continuing the ongoing series of Pokemon, X and Y introduce the fewest new Pokemon of any generation, with this generation capping at 68 new known Pokemon. Of course, Nintendo also tried to recapture the sense of truly unknown adventuring that the first two generations of Pokemon gave without the knowledge being all over the internet by doing a worldwide release. That didn't stop a certain individual from getting his hands on the games early and leaking limited information, but this information was soon removed from the internet by him at Nintendo's request to avoid legal action. Carrying over on that sense of unknown adventure, there is the potential that X and Y have pokemon in them that players have yet to discover, including event Pokemon that are, as of yet, impossible to find through the typical means of using an Action Replay or other hacking methods, since the 3DS has very few known hacks/exploits for it. The Kalos region's true and arguably most important claim to fame is the new concept of Mega-Evolutions, which some criticize for being extremely close to Digimon's digivolving system (all the way down to using "Mega" as a prefix), in which during battle, one of your active Pokemon that has a corresponding Mega Stone will be transformed into the Mega-Evolution, giving them stat bonuses and in most cases, a new ability. This change only lasts for that battle, at which point your Pokemon will return to its normal form. As a direct effect of not being able to hack items into the game or view the game's data (yet), players are still unsure if the known Mega-Evolutions are the only Mega-Evolutions there will be, or if Nintendo has more planned down the road. Another new game feature that X and Y have brought to the table is true ability to customize your trainer character in a variety of ways. Gone are the simple times of "Are you a boy or a girl?", now you can choose a skin color/hair color from the start, and later in the game can purchase and find a variety of accessories and clothes to completely change up your look and have a truly unique character. To many, this is an appealing addition, since in previous Pokemon games, players were restricted to representing themselves to other players as one of the many different in-game trainer types rather than a personalized avatar. To end out the new feature list, raising your Pokemon with love and kindness has taken a new gameplay role in X and Y, as they will now respond to your affection during battle in the form of recovering from status effects early, resisting critical hits, or even refusing to faint. You can build bonds with your Pokemon by petting them and making faces for them using the 3DS' self pointing camera in the game's sub-application Pokemon-Amie (a clever pun). Through a series of minigames, you can also train your Pokemon's effort values (EVs) in a quicker and easier fashion than the previous generations' focus on grinding constantly on the same type of Pokemon. Overall, Pokemon's sixth generation, at a casual glance, looks as if it doesn't bring as much to the table as previous generations, but when you look deeper into the game, beyond the low number of new Pokemon added, you see that it has a lot going for it. Stay tuned for December, when Nintendo launches Pokemon Bank and Poke-Transfer apps for the 3DS family of handhelds, which will allow players to transfer their beloved Pokemon from previous games to the new generation!
  7. Continuing with their habit of making multiple versions of the same hardware, Nintendo has recently released the Nintendo 2DS, a 3DS that has no 3D capabilities, and also does not have the "clamshell" design that Nintendo's DS family has had since the launch of the original DS back in 2004. As some of you may know already, the 2DS is the third installment in the 3DS lineup, following the standard model, which recently was released in a variety of colors (many of which were teased at the 2011 E3 demo and only just brought to fruition), and the more recent 3DS XL (3DS LL in Japan), which offers users a much larger top screen for easier viewing. The larger screen also unfortunately does not compensate for resolution, so it does stretch the visuals of the games out a lot, which depending on personal taste, can ruin the game for you. The 2DS aims to provide parents with the peace of mind of knowing that their children cannot activate a 3D mode, which can potentially harm developing eyesight, and also released at a slightly lower price than the 3D technology model, to give potential users who don't care for the 3D function an ever so slightly cheaper alternative by cutting it out entirely. The design of the 2DS harkens back to Nintendo's first GameBoy, being large and seemingly sturdy, since for younger users, the GameBoy Advance SP and everything in the DS/3DS family would often break at the hinges, since the hinge area is hard to fortify. Interestingly, the 2DS uses only one screen, which is a large touch screen that has been divided by the 2DS' CPU to display as if it were two screens. The debate over whether or not Nintendo should have taken advantage of the touch screen capabilities of the top screen remains ongoing, and some fans of the design have come up with relatively convincing reasons/innovative ideas for how Nintendo could have potentially used that feature. The naming of the 2DS is a bit questionable, since to the casual observer, 2, being less than 3, implies that the 2DS is some form of prototype or watered down version (which it technically is), so exactly how many sales it'll lose or gain thanks to this odd naming scheme remains to be seen.
  8. As some of you may know, Mighty No. 9 was revealed at PAX in late August, and launched on Kickstarter on September 1, 2013. To many, the mention of the man behind its creation, Keiji Inafune, is enough to ring a bell. For those not so involved, looking at the character design for the game's protagonist, Beck, is surely enough to invoke a recollection of a certain blue clad hero, one whose addition to the latest Super Smash Bros. title was confirmed in June of this year. Of course, I'm talking about MegaMan. Keiji Inafune, of course, is one of the creators of Capcom's classic sidescrolling action platformer that defined the childhood of many owners of the NES and SNES consoles. As we grew, so to did MegaMan, being brought from simple action platformers of the classic series to the more intricate MegaMan X series, even branching into new territory of adventure game in MegaMan Legends, and almost Pokemon style RPG in MegaMan Battle Network. MegaMan became one franchise to cover a wide array of what people wanted from a video game, no matter what your gameplay style of choice was, and for a long time, Capcom continued to make excellent games that had lasting appeal to the old audience, along with enough change and addition to attract a new audience without alienating them entirely. Outside of using the same formula for most of the games for a bit more than 20 years without ever really trying to change anything, MegaMan was a formula that just worked. Of course, Capcom's less than savory actions regarding the cancelled MegaMan Universe and MegaMan Legends 3 projects, along with releases of a less than stellar remake of MegaMan X for iOS devices, along with a new spinoff series "MegaMan XOver" pretty much killed the franchise in the eyes of many fans - especially after Keiji Inafune's departure from Capcom to form his own company, Comcept. That's where Mighty No. 9 comes in - after a lot of hard years, fans of what made MegaMan great got to see a new idea flourish on Kickstarter with the promise of Inafune's lead, along with the talents of a variety of artists and workers who have spent the greater part of their career working on MegaMan titles of the past. The game intends to be a return to the roots of sidescrolling action platformers like MegaMan, while adding the much needed new content and slight change that the games have needed to stay fresh. It's not about breaking away completely from the old, it's about taking what worked and adding more that works, while keeping it accessible to everyone. Mighty No. 9 was funded on October 1, 2013 with more than 4 million dollars total, reaching every stretch goal the developers had planned out, and breaking the minimum funding of $900,000 by $3,100,000. The game is slated to be released in 2015, with a beta version released to backers of the Kickstarter earlier in 2015, possibly even in late 2014. Few details are known about the game, but the general consensus is indeed that it is a rebirth of the hero that many fans have known since they were small children, along with the hope that it will be the birth of a new hero that future generations can enjoy the same that our generation enjoyed MegaMan. The question is though, is it time to abandon MegaMan? Of course, that's a strange question. You can't just literally abandon something. The memory's always there, and the legacy that Mighty No. 9 is building upon is one that was founded almost entirely by the MegaMan Franchise. That's not even really what I mean by abandon MegaMan - I'll never forget the fun I had playing MegaMan games, nor will I soon decide to just stop playing them. MegaMan X, MegaMan Battle Network 3, and MegaMan 10 are some of my favorite games of all time, and I play them when I have time and really want to relive some past fun. When I ask if we should move on from MegaMan, I ask it more from the standpoint of as a franchise itself. Should MegaMan fans, after the repeated failures and broken promises of Capcom to produce what the fans really want, stop wanting MegaMan games? It seems like a logical conclusion: a new face has come to replace one of the video game industry's most beloved characters, and with such overwhelming support, it barely seems like it's worth asking if people like this new hero as much as they liked MegaMan, the answer is a clear and overpowering "yes". Of course, MegaMan is a franchise that has garnered quite the fan following, and there's many websites dedicated to the preservation of the good times we had, and some that still continue to bring up to date news of the less than good times that we have now. Even if a schism hasn't been created, it almost feels like one has been, between the hope of a new sort of golden age with Mighty No. 9, and the clinging to the past and hope for an official rebirth of MegaMan as a franchise. It isn't wrong to be on either side, or to have no real side at all - it's still video games, and as people who enjoy video games, we should feel proud that both can exist.
  9. I know it's crazy old, but I think I need to challenge this. Firstly, let's start with the basics. It's a website that helps you make an extremely simple text based RPG. I've never personally found these to be fun at all, but I'm sure there's people that like them. Text based RPGs are a game, and how creative they are is up to the user. Even with a preconstructed game building tool such as that website provides, it gives you the ability to make your world, your enemies, and your characters all unique. This is an important part of an RPG. Imagine, you're playing the newest Final Fantasy game. You've looked forward to this forever - what could they possibly do to improve upon Final Fantasy? You fire up the game, and the characters are all dull and lifeless, the world is nothing but a tiled set of four generic areas including plains, mountains, desert, and forest, and every enemy is a goblin with variable HP depending on your level. It would be an awful game, save for its comedic value. A service like this really helps a person flesh out their world in an interactive way, and allows practice in telling stories in various ways. Telling someone to learn HTML5, PHP, and CSS3 is great. The thing about it is, though, scripting languages and especially higher level programming languages are brutal to learn, especially if you try to teach yourself. If a person is able to learn to program, that's great, but a person who has no desire to do that should never be forced to understand much more than the basics - what is a variable? How can I make simple logic? How can I turn simple logic into complex logic? Those are the questions that should be on any future game creator's mind, even if they don't like programming. Think about it, a person has a great idea for a game, but suddenly, we live in a world where that cannot be validated unless that person learns to code it from the ground up. Not only are they wasting time that the game could have already been put into a very rough alpha version and released for playtesting and review, they're probably going to end up resenting programming as a whole. The point there is that there is often never a reason to fabricate your own engine from the ground up. Look a video games, how diverse and plentiful they've become over just thirty years. When it comes to making a game from scratch, there's probably already a solution to what you're doing. Find an open source version of that game's engine and tweak it if you need to. The faster you get a game from in your head/from on paper into an actual working prototype, the faster you'll be able to find out whether or not the game is even fun to play, and that's really the most basic need - can people enjoy my game, no matter what form it has taken right now? Tools like this are great for beginners and veterans alike. There's never a reason to say that a game made with a tool such as this, or any other tool, such as Game Maker or BYOND, aren't "real" games. They're as real a game as Mario or MegaMan, the important part is how much fun they are to play. If the idea's great, shoot for the stars; get a team together and make it something huge.
  10. Been a while since I've done a game review here, so I guess I'll start up with a little something my girlfriend wanted me to play with her: Spiral Knights. -Background- Spiral Knights is a free to play game, released back in 2011, and added to Steam's list of free to play games later that year. The story, which started out lacking, has grown considerably, but only barely. You play, as the title suggests, as a newly recruited knight within an organization known as the Spiral Order, whose exact purpose in the universe is as of yet unrevealed within the game. During an equally ambiguously explained mission, the Spiral Order's assumed base of operations, a starcruiser named the Skylark, is pulled towards an unexplored planet named Cradle. The pull of the planet forces the Skylark to crash, resulting in its near destruction, and the explosion of its main fuel source. The Spiral Order is welcomed to the planet by the friendly natives living in a town called Haven, and from there, the Order has set up a new base of operations, with the purpose of seeking out a new energy source deep within the core of the planet to power up their ship and resume their previous mission. With the addition of new story details, players get to learn more about the other sentient beings on Cradle, Gremlins, who seek to destroy Haven for reasons unknown. Apparently lead by the Crimson Order, these Gremlins build powerful war machines to combat the knights of the Spiral Order and further their goal of Haven's destruction, so that they may unlock the secrets of the Clockworks themselves. -Gameplay- Spiral Knights heavily resembles top down Zelda games, with players hitting switches, opening doors, and defeating enemies with their choice of bombs, swords, guns, or a combination of any two or all three. The majority of the gameplay takes place in the subterranean dungeon known as the Clockworks, an ever changing maze made of pieces of other worlds. The game touts this pseudo-random level generation as one of its key features, as it adds a slight level of difficulty in predicting exactly what your next challenge in these worlds will be. Players can traverse the Clockworks solo, or with a party of up to four friends (or strangers), which the game developers note has no downside, since all money and heat (more on this later) is shared between party members, but the real downside to playing with friends is that monsters receive an unnecessary HP and attack boost, and your strategies will often be accidentally ruined by your teammates. There is absolutely no protection from being griefed by your fellow knights, either, and playing with even one person who is skilled enough to conspire your downfall will lead to countless unnecessary deaths. You can kick troublesome party members from your party if you happen to be the leader, but by the time you realize that your teammate is troublesome, it'll be too late. To discuss Heat further: players in this game have no levels. In stark contrast to typical MMORPGs, players do not level up to earn better equipment, but instead, level up their equipment through the collection of small round orbs referred to as Heat. When a player's item gains heat, it can be upgraded at an alchemy machine to a higher star level. Since there are only levels 0-5, it can be said that there are only 6 levels a player can be in Spiral Knights, depending on the level of their armor and weapons. Don't be fooled, however, becoming a full level 5 will take non paying players months. The one true plague to Spiral Knights' gameplay is its system of Mist Energy. A new player starts their game off with 100 Mist Energy, explained as a natural energy that flows through the air of Cradle. This energy is used to power all sorts of gadgets and gizmos, from elevators to alchemy machines. The problem here is that to go to a stage where you actually play, you must activate one of the aforementioned elevators, which cost 10 Energy. Energy recharges at a rate of 1 unit every 13 or so minutes, but this of course means that on a normal day (unless the game gives you a free Mist Tank, which happens when you achieve certain things), you can only play ten levels, a depressingly low amount considering that there are 30 floors in the Clockworks. Your progress cannot be saved, either, so a full run of the clockworks requires that you purchase Crystal Energy, either using real money, or by using in game money to buy it from other players. Early game missions and the first few floors of the Clockworks, however, give beginning players very little money, and Crystal Energy is almost always better spent on crafting new weapons and armor than exploring the game's dungeons. This gives Spiral Knights the feel of a Facebook game, restricting your play based on daily limitations... that is, unless you pay. This means that non-paying players will find their first few advancements to take weeks or maybe even months. On top of the inherent energy related restrictions, the game stops players at two points within the Clockworks based on their equipment. If the player hasn't completed the missions giving them clearance to continue, they must either replay missions or the same tier of the Clockworks until they build up enough money to expand their arsenal. This can get tiresome to impatient players. The bosses, of which there are four, are mostly gimmicky fights with what would otherwise be extremely powerful normal enemies. The first boss in the game is the Snarbolax, a heavily upgraded version of another enemy called a Wolver. The gimmick here is that it is absolutely invincible except when it approaches a bell in the center of the area in which it is fought, which must be struck to inflict Stun status onto the boss, as well as make him vulnerable to attack. To any player good with pattern recognition, the fight is nothing more than tedious, made only a bit more confusing when you bring more players along. The second boss is Royal Jelly, referred to as King Jelly or Jelly King by most players. He is, in every way, a literal upgrade of the commonly encountered Jelly monsters, with the added gimmick of being able to heal himself. The mission in which players are expected to defeat him is encountered relatively early in the game (when most players are expected to have very low level equipment), and his constant healing is almost unbeatable by oneself so early in the game. The third boss is a shining light in the sea of overall disappointment that these bosses have brought about, referred to as the Roarmulus Twins. While it does bring back the slightly pointless gimmick of invincibility that the Snarbolax had, along with the respawning enemies that Royal Jelly introduced, The Roarmulus Twins is the most well planned out boss in the game in terms of requiring players to actually work together - one player in charge of destroying the endlessly respawning enemies, the other in charge of managing the gates that allow the players to have the Roarmulus Twins attack each other, making them able to be attacked by the player on enemy duty. Lord Vanaduke, the fiery "final boss" of the game is a massive boss with an even bigger boss area. he spends the majority of his time surrounding himself with respawning fireballs, inflicting Fire status on players and making himself generally incapable of being hit. For players experienced and prepared for him, however, he is a complete and utter pushover who can be defeated in under five minutes. For the inexperienced, the fight can and will drag on until you've spent all of your energy reviving yourself and either luckily defeat him, or give up. However, the last part can be said for all of the bosses, again, except for the Roarmulus Twins, who are the only bosses that careful strategy can allow a player unfamiliar with their every move to succeed, aside from possibly the Snarbolax who is overall too easy to allow consistent failure. For this reason, I have to say that the bosses in the game are poorly balanced. The game was later patched to introduce four "Shadow Lair" versions of the bosses and their stages, which do nothing but try to make them harder. The strategies are largely the same, except the bosses deal more damage and have more health. -Overall- There's no reason to say that Spiral Knights is a bad game. In concept, it is an excellent idea: essentially a multiplayer Zelda game that doesn't completely rely on teamwork like the actual attempts at multiplayer Zelda. In execution, however, Spiral Knights lacks. It is programmed in Java, and naturally has all of the flaws that comes with being a Java based game. Don't get me wrong, though, it's no Minecraft. It is overall an extremely stable game that rarely crashes but often lags, as there seems to be no memory buffer on enemy spawn or level generation, which can cause visible framerate drops or momentary freezes, which will of course lead to trouble, especially if you were moving, since server side, your character never stopped moving, whether you saw it happen or not. Beyond the game's flaws in programming, the economy (an important part of every MMO) is severely stifled due to the game's heavy reliance on players spending money on Crystal Energy. As I said already, everything is run by energy... everything. Trading weapons is impossible without first unbinding them, which costs exorbitant amounts of energy. To unbind a four star item, for instance, costs 800 Energy, which is more than $2.50 USD. To unbind a five star item, you're looking at literally double the amount. This of course, drives up the price of unbound items significantly, and for new players, looking at an item that costs in excess of 600,000 crowns (in game currency) adds a sense of futility to everything you do, especially since the game's hardest missions and bosses only reward around 3000-4000 crowns. There's nothing wrong with trying to prevent players from just up and getting the best armor and weapons in the game, of course, but that argument honestly just lends to the fact that the system of player level matching weapon level is often the best for everyone. In terms of making your own items, a trip to the deepest depths of the clockworks is required to make five star items. The missions seem like they're made to help players make items quicker, but in reality, the system there too is flawed. Players are hard pressed to get the recipes for items one level higher than theirs unless they randomly come across it at a merchant in the Clockworks. This leads to hours upon hours of replaying the same thing just to try and get what you want, which is honestly on the level of NES games in artificial lengthening. Even when you do reach four to five star rank, you quickly realize that the endgame content is underwhelming and lacking. The hardest missions in the game suffer from exactly what the bosses and Shadow Lair missions suffer from: difficulty brought about not by a change of strategy or gameplay, but by simply increasing the HP of the enemies, increasing their attack, and in the case of Danger Missions, increasing the number of enemies to an almost impossible level. Even with the best armor and weapons you can afford, these missions are nearly impossible to play by yourself and become even harder when you bring friends to try helping you. Even when you manage to beat them, the end result is the same, mostly due to the game's lack of a full or even comprehensive story. Everything the game can offer is a goal set for yourself, which isn't inherently a bad thing (again, I'm reminded of Minecraft) and there's nothing wrong with wanting to make yourself look cool so that you can hang out with friends and strangers wearing your awesome gear, but the game lacks a critical something that makes you want to keep playing even after you've completed your wildest fantasy. Patches and updates are few and far between for Spiral Knights, and the updates that do come out are minimal game fixes that add one to two features. Unfortunately, there is little to play for in the game, and even the updates provide little more to play for. All in all, the game is fun for as long as you have the patience for it, and needs its developers to find another way to monetize it than try and force players to either grind endlessly or have everything given to them on a silver platter. Unfortunately, they have yet to find that happy medium, and until they do, the game will suffer for it.
  11. In mid-February, Nintendo released the thirteenth installment to their Fire Emblem series, Fire Emblem: Awakening. Physical copies have been really hard to get since its launch (for reasons that are unclear but theorized to be Nintendo pushing the digital distribution function on the 3DS), and its release marks the first time that a Fire Emblem game has had DLC. I finally got my hands on a physical copy the other week (I will never settle for less than a physical game), so it's time for a quick first-impression review!In terms of gameplay, Awakening plays just like any other Fire Emblem, with a few minor adjustments and additions. The first, most notable change is that any character can work together with other characters to give each other support while in battle. For most units, this is a simple accuracy increase, but some supporting units will grant the attacking unit skill, might, defense, or sometimes, even jump into the fray and attack the enemy along with you! This support system ties into another slightly new addition to the game, which is relationships. Whenever two units work together, a heart appears over their heads, signifying that their relationship has increased just a tiny bit. When outside of a mission, you can have your units discuss with each other, or listen in on their conversations in the barracks, which will rank up the relationship of the two units who talked together, and the conversations you listen in on will most of the time produce a better relationship between the two units who conversed in the barracks, as well.On top of the relationship addition (which isn't so much an addition as it is a refinement of a system that already existed), this Fire Emblem adds in the ability to create your own character. Though the customization options are limited, there are more than enough to tailor-make your own custom character for the Fire Emblem universe, and enough options to leave those of us who have tons of characters already created with the freedom to get our characters as close as possible. The customization options range between three body types (child, teenager/younger adult, older adult), about seven or so hair styles for each body type, and around 10 colors for the hair. This is mirrored for the female character as well, so in total, there are about 40 customization options, though female hair styles cannot be used on males, hair styles from each body build cannot be used on different bodies, etc. Your customized character doesn't replace the game's canon Lord class (Crom), but is central to the plot, and is a playable unit, given the class "Tactician". Like the main Lord class character, your character cannot fall in battle or else you get a game over, but there's no need to worry, since the Tactician class can use both magic and swords, which makes your custom character powerful and versatile.Another slightly less important addition to the game is a setting, "Casual mode", that allows you to keep units who have fallen in battle instead of removing them from the game with no way to revive them. While this is out of character for Fire Emblem games, since one of its selling features is the inability to regain lost units, making you actually fear for their death, I can't really complain about it, since it will without a doubt help new players get into the game, and from what I hear from fellow Fire Emblem players (and from my own experience), when a character dies that you like, you typically reset the game anyway and replay the mission. In a sense, Casual mode is just saving us the time of having to reset our game, but there are situations where I feel it adds a deeper sense of actually commanding an army to allow a unit to die and complete the mission without them. I let scenarios like this only happen at the end of a mission, and only if there was seriously no avoiding it, but it's at that point that I decide the loss of this one unit is not as crippling as restarting this mission could potentially be, so its best to let them die here. With Casual mode on, something like that could never happen, so out of principle (even though I rarely get myself into a situation where one of my units could die), I play in Normal mode, where dead units are dead for good.The last noticeable addition to the game is the system of abilities. As certain units level up, they gain extra abilities that add passive stats to them, such as stat boosts, or combat benefits. Many of these are based on already existing stat benefits that certain weapons provided, so it's very possible to stack effects on one unit to make them incredibly strong.Overall, the game is challenging and enjoyable, just like any Fire Emblem before it. I highly recommend picking it up if you can get your hands on it, although you can buy it from the Nintendo E-Shop, but I won't recommend it, since I'm against digital distribution.
  12. Let's continue the tutorial with some slightly more advanced content: Tool Textures Trigger Texture The trigger texture is a texture that can be applied to any brush after its creation. During the map's run-time, all trigger textures are invisible and non-solid, and initially do nothing. In order to make a trigger do something, select the brush (either in 3D View or in a 2D View) and press Ctrl + T. This will bring up a brush properties box. From this box, you can choose almost a hundred different properties, such as "trigger_teleport", "trigger_hurt", "func_respawnroom", and "func_resupply". In order, these will: teleport a player to a destination (an info_teleport_destination entity), create an area that will harm the player(s), create a respawnroom, and create an area that will resupply (refill the health and ammo) the player. To make a map more advanced than walls and a floor, Trigger is absolutely necessary, since it will allow the creation of hurtful objects (such as toxic sludge, lava, cacti or other things), or to simply open a door when you walk up to it. Nodraw Texture The Nodraw is an invisible texture that remains solid during run-time. It is most commonly used as a way to keep players from exiting the map, but can also be used for more creative means, such as a series of invisible platforms that lead to a secret area. Bullets, players, NPCs and projectiles cannot travel through the Nodraw, so it functions exactly like any other solid brush. Important to realize about the Nodraw texture is that it can (and should!) be applied to the faces of brushes that will not be seen by the player during the game. This allows your map to compile faster, run smoother, and have a smaller file size. Of particular note, the creation of water is facilitated through Nodraws, by simply placing a water texture on the top face of a Nodraw brush. Player Clip Texture The Player Clip functions exactly like a Nodraw to players, but NPCs, bullets, and projectiles ignore it. This is an excellent way to keep players out of an enemy spawning room, which is mostly only useful for preserving the illusion of "this is a building full of enemies" as opposed to "this is a place where enemies just spawn out of nothing". Since the Player Clip allows bullets to pass through it, a player will never feel like it is unfair for enemies to stay behind it, since they can still shoot or otherwise harm them from the other side. Skybox Texture Skybox does exactly what is written on the tin, creates a box that creates a sky. The downside to the idea of a Skybox is that any area that allows you to see off the map will reveal sky under your map, as if the patch of land you're on is floating high in the sky. When trying to create an immersive map, it's important to keep this in mind and make sure that the player will not be able to see the bottom of the skybox from any point on the map. This can be averted by using a 3D Skybox, which produces a fully rendered environment outside of the map in a separate area that cannot be accessed under normal means (using noclip or putting a secret teleporter will allow players to get there, however). 3D Skyboxes are difficult to make, but rewarding when created correctly.
  13. In the early days of video games, the graphics processors of the systems that dominated the home consoles market were nowhere near the power of ours today. As opposed to 3D models, sprites were used as the primary graphic in games. What is a Sprite? A sprite is any graphical representation of a character, enemy, or scenery object that isn't a part of the background tiles. The most common error is for people to call only moving objects sprites, but these are referred to as "mobiles" or, in more common terms, "mobs". Sprites come in hundreds of varieties, varying greatly by the system the game they're from is on, and the game they're from in general. Classifications of Sprite There are many places on the internet that have sprites freely available for people who wish to use them for basically anything: comics, fangames, website graphics; you name it, it exists. On sites such as this, the sprites are often classified by what is referred to as "bits" or "bittage", referring typically to how many colors the sprite has. Generally, the spriting community regards "8 bit" as a sprite with 4 colors, 3 visible on the sprite and one set aside as a transparency to be used for the game's sake. "16 bit" and "32 bit" range from 8 to 16 colors, all of which will of course have one transparency, making them have 7 to 15 colors. Technically, these classifications are incorrect, but semantics does nothing to aid learning. How to begin spriting Spriting is one of the few art forms that takes no investment on the spriter's part aside from time. All the materials and tools you need are provided to you simply by being able to read this post right now: your computer's default, preinstalled paint program: Paint for Windows, or Paintbrush for Mac. For beginners, these programs seem simplistic and underpowered, as if they could never produce anything complex, but for someone experienced, they are the perfect tool because of their simplicity. Fewer options and less interference allows you to manipulate your pixels without the added stress that comes from having to deal with advanced image manipulation programs. Where to start For beginners, it's simplest to start out by editing sprites, to help understand the basics of your paint program. This will help most beginners to understand concepts of shading, color choice, and general anatomy. The more you practice in one style, the better you'll be in that style, as with most things that you can practice in. It is encouraged for all spriters to pick up their own spriting style, since this opens you up for an actual career in game graphics if you're lucky. What you can do with your new talent As a spriter, you can make your own game graphics, sprite comics, or other projects without relying on other people's works.
  14. There are many things in life that can hold people back from their dreams, and keep them from realizing their full potential. For me, like it may be for many others, that crippling restraint is my personal lack of money, coupled with my family's inability to properly manage their finances and our living arrangement. There is very little in this world that will not cost you, whether it be in time, money, or energy. People say that money can't buy happiness, and if they've only ever met those who manage money like my family does, they are justified in this opinion. But they also do not understand the complete helplessness of not being able to pay for the right to live in a safe, sane, and secure environment. My leading oppressor in this world regarding money is the mismanagement of it by those who have legal authority over me, as well as those I depend on for food and shelter. I love my family, but sometimes, I feel as if they do not even know how to take care of themselves, much less anyone else. Regardless, they ignorantly believe that they know what's best for everyone around them, and often times will be insulted or angry if I don't take their advice or do as they say. Even then, they're terrible at giving directions, and so frequently change their minds that it's impossible to keep up and always do the right thing. This can range from which dinnerware we set the table with to which room each person in the family is currently living in at the time. I have been moved from room to room so many times, that eventually I just started leaving the bulk of my possessions in their moving boxes. Through the last 3 moves I haven't bothered to unpack them at all, and even now my moving boxes are just sitting in the corner, expectantly awaiting yet another upheaval as soon as someone suddenly becomes displeased with the view from their bedroom window. With living conditions such as these it is easy to become discouraged, and even when I take steps to remedy my situation, a sense of predominating hopelessness always overtakes me. However, I am extremely stubborn, and have always refused to give up without a fight. Last summer, I decided that I would try to remedy my lack of personal power, so I got a job at a small bakery. Everyone in my family had been telling me to get a job up to this point in time, even going so far as to be snide about my unemployed status, blatantly pointing out that I never contributed financially to the household, and that I never brought in a paycheck. Honestly, they were right, and I felt guilty for not helping out more to pay them back for the food I ate, and the physical space I took up. However, not even a week after I'd gotten my job, my family started interfering with my schedule, the one that they had urged me into, going so far as to be angry at me for having to go to work when they would rather me work for them, or go do something they wanted done. Minimum wage is most certainly not enough to live on, the money I was bringing in wasn't good enough to keep my family happy, and my job wasn't worth the stress they were placing on me at the time. Along with all of this, the fact remains that I still had to depend on my family for primary support, so I was forced to quit my job only a few weeks after starting due to nothing more than the selfish whims of my family weighing too heavily for me to carry. This entire fiasco was nothing new to me, though. In the past, I have very often forfeited my own happiness to keep my family appeased. This stems largely from the fact that I don't have enough money to help both my family and myself. For instance, an excellent judge of my family's unique brand of fiscal irresponsibility is in the treatment of birthdays. My cousin's birthday falls very near mine, and I am used to having simple birthdays that go by relatively unnoticed; it is a reality I have come to accept. My cousin, however, gets many more gifts than I do, the majority of them being quite expensive, yet my family still gets upset with me if I don't want to get him a gift as well. Mind you, I am not even on good terms with this cousin of mine, we simply don't get along with each other at all, and if it weren't for my family, I would opt to not even attend their party. Likewise, I'm sure they would opt out of attending mine if it were important enough for them to even realize it was my birthday at all. The only difference is that I'm the horrible and rude one for not wanting to go. So, in order to keep my family from stressing me out, yelling, and generally throwing a fit, I have to go out of my way to spend the money I try to save up for emergencies, or for something that may get me closer to my own independence, to get a gift for someone who does not appreciate it, to appease a family that also will not appreciate it. For a long time now, I have suffered from depression and feelings of hopelessness. I've felt like my life is clearly just a dead end existence, which can only result in failure no matter what I try, and I should just come to accept the chains of bondage that my family and their often idiotic decisions have placed upon me. For such a long time, I have been so afraid of the consequences of displeasing them that now, I have an almost Pavlovian fear response to any anger that even only might be directed against me. And quite honestly, I've become completely disgusted with them, myself, and the kind of life I had been leading. Now, I have placed my education at the highest priority, far above the trifling, moronic whims of my family. Though it seems heartless to say it, I no longer care about their feelings. Someday, I will have the resources to be concerned with them and their whims, only after I am no longer within their control or at their mercy.
  15. I have my domain name through xisto, and it is paid for by myCENT, but I have since forgotten how I signed up for that. Either way, it is very possible to pay for domains with myCENT.
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