Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Episode 5 is Live!

Episode 5 of the Play Like a Girl podcast is now live! Subscribe to us on iTunes (nudge, nudge) or click the link below. Even if you do not download via iTunes, please take the time to leave us a review there.

Thanks for the support everyone!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

PAX East: (Dead Space) panel update

One more day is left of PAX East and I'll be sad to see it go. But so far, I've attended two panels and I, honestly, don't plan to attend anymore. The first panel on girl gamers was interesting, but it was all Q&A and it felt like the same question kept being asked in different ways: "Why aren't there more female gamers, and why do they get treated as lesser-than?" Well, if we had that answer, we'd solve it.

Which leads me to the second panel I attended: the Dead Space panel. If you've been keeping up with my Twitter, you'd know that this panel blew my fucking mind. You guys know how much Valve impresses Cary and me on a daily basis, right? Well... Visceral Games is sneaking up there. Watch it, Valve. You better release "The Passing" soon to keep your status. But I digress.

The three speakers from Visceral were Steve Papoutsis (Executive Producer), Rich Briggs (Producer), and Ian Milhelm (Art Director). These three guys were a wonderfully dynamic group that started the panel off 15 minutes early because they were, admittedly, so excited to get started.

The panel started off with an informal Q&A, like I said, then went onto a presentation that explained a lot of the Dead Space backstory and universe -- things that maybe some of us missed out on because we were too busy shitting ourselves with terror to pay attention who was talking to us during gameplay and exactly what they were saying. (Who cared, right? Those necro-assholes were AFTER YOU.) What impressed me so much about this was the fine attention to detail within the story (they explained that in order to focus on the game, they had to create an ample amount of backstory to make this universe seem realistic to the gamer) and also the minute detail in the design. Every single moment of terror and horror are worked on step-by-step to provide the ultimately scary experience; the example they used was the first time the tentacle grabs Isaac in the original game. Yeah, you remember it. Mission accomplished, Visceral. (You can also watch me experiencing this moment for the first time.)

Waiting to get into the panel, they handed out free mini-posters and promised there were more goodies on the inside. Anybody who asked a question got a free hardback copy of their graphic novel. But don't worry, Cary, one of these posters is on its way to you:

The other one is already on my wall. :)

They streamed some of the Q&A live, as well, and in the middle, Papoutsis broke into the conversation with a "fuck it, we're showing you guys a clip from Dead Space 2. I don't care." Now, while this was assuredly planned, that satiated every single person in the audience. I think every person in that room fell in love a little bit right then. You can watch most of the Q&A in the video below, and the clip from DS2 is at the beginning of the video:

While they were pretty hush-hush on a lot of what's to come in Dead Space 2, a few tidbits came out:
  • Isaac, undoubtedly, was psychologically affected by the actions in DS1. So...?
  • If DS1 was a 10 on a scale of 1-10 based on how scary it was, DS2 will be a "5 billion."
  • There will be NO watering down of DS2. The metaphor used was, DS1 was more like a roller coaster that just has one big loop, DS2 will be like a normal roller coaster that goes up, down, around, upside down. There will be heightened moments, but moments to cool down and collect.
  • Isaac has a brand new suit, but still with upgrades? Not sure on this one. Sounds like new suits throughout, with similar ideas. (A guy came out dressed in the suit which was handmade and composed of all the elements that Isaac's actual suit will contain in the game.)
  • Yep, Isaac talks in DS2 and his role will be even larger, as well.
  • During the Q&A someone made the point that a lot of horror movies and the like always take place after-the-fact and the protagonist shows up and has to figure out what happened. This person asked if they ever considered the idea of the protagonist coming in when something was going down and being a part of it and consider the idea of a "last man standing" sort of thing. They all just kind of smiled and said, "that's a great idea!"

After all this, I had a brief moment where I thought, "I'd kind of like to play through Dead Space again, maybe." Which should just prove how impressive the panel was and how motherfuckin' excited I am for Dead Space 2.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The first rule of PAX East...

I've mentioned this a few times on Twitter but never on the blog so, I'm going to PAX East, which kicks off tomorrow in downtown Boston. I have a three-day pass so I can almost go to any panel I'd like, with the exception of a few hours on Saturday. I plan on attending the following panels:

Girls and Games: The Growing Role of Women in the Game Industry
Manticore Theatre
Friday, 8:00pm

According to the ESA, more than 43% of video gamers are female, making women the single largest untapped market segment in the gaming industry. Look at the milestones crossed and the hurdles to come as developers and publishers reach out to this previously overlooked demographic. Are current strategies effective? What does this mean for the game industry as a whole?

Panelists Include: Brittany Vincent [Editor-in-Chief, Spawn Kill], Julie Furman [Founder, SFX360], Jeff Kalles [Penny Arcade], Alexis Hebert [Community Relations Manager, Terminal Reality], Padma Fuller [Product Marketing Manager, Sanrio Digital], Kate Paiz [Senior Producer, Turbine]

The Dead Space Universe: Creating a World of Horror in Games and Beyond
Naga Theatre
Saturday, 1:00pm

In 2008, EA launched a new IP from Visceral Studios: Dead Space. The game delivered the ultimate in psychological thrills and gruesome action. A bold and bloody sci-fi survival horror game set 400 years in the future, Dead Space stunned and scared players, won critical acclaim, and spawned the 2009 prequel: Dead Space Extraction. The Dead Space universe runs deep, and as gamers find themselves clamoring for more, Dead Space comics, animated features and figures have been released. This talk will go behind the scenes on the making of Dead Space, bring players up to speed on the Dead Space universe, and prepare them for what’s to come in the recently announced Dead Space 2.

Panelists Include: Rich Briggs [Producer, EA], Ian Milham [Art Director, EA], Steve Papoutsis [Executive Producer, EA]

Anybody else going? Any other panels you find intriguing, or would love for me to attend so that I could write about it later? There are limits, obviously, but I'm open to suggestions. I want to be able to report back what everybody so longs to hear about in the gaming industry today.

Cary and I are hoping to do a podcast on PAX East once it's over (even though she's not attending which, believe me, is a topic of contention), but I'd also like to discuss individual panels, etc.

What I'm saying is: expect lots of PAX-related topics in the coming week.

Monday, March 22, 2010

In Valve We Trust

Today I came across some news (read MASSIVE SPOILERS ZOMG) for the upcoming Left 4 Dead 2 DLC, "The Passing" that leaves me . . . uneasy. Obviously, if you want to remain surprised you'll want to stop reading now.

For real, yo.


Bye now.

Oh, you can't wait either can you? Okay, well, the source of my hesitation comes from this little bit of information from Valve's Chet Faliszek who recently revealed the tagline to the new DLC: No One Lives Forever. Seems he's painfully correct as he also revealed that one of the four original survivors will not, um, survive. Seems one of them will scarifice themselves so that the other three can carry on.

I have to say . . . I'm pretty shocked at this sudden twist. I'm not sure if I like serious sauce in my Left 4 Dead sandwich. Though I do think it's funny that when I told Lynsey and a mutual gamer friend of ours both of their reactions were the same: "I hope it's Louis".

Sorry buddy, but you have no personality.

I suppose though, only the coming days will tell.

. . .

I hope it's Louis.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chris should have a sawed-off shotgun. That shit is badass.

It's a pretty well-known fact 'round these parts that Cary and I are in love with Resident Evil 5. Cary favors Leon, I favor Chris. We have our differences, sure, but we've played RE5 for more hours than I care to publicly admit. So you can guess that the news of two DLCs for RE5 set our little hearts adance. Well, we have now played both "Lost in Nightmares" and "Desperate Escape" DLC and we actually agreed to the same thing on both -- one was awesome and one we NEVER want to play again. Seriously.

"Lost in Nightmares" came out first and since its release, Cary and I have played through it twice. Three times? I can't remember now. Suffice it to say, we've played through it several times and each time was just as enjoyable as the first. "Lost in Nightmares" is a great combination of old and new Resident Evil. Walking through doorways was similar to the older games. There were long, dark hallways where you would hear dogs, but then bats would burst through the window. (Which, of course, didn't scare Cary at all. Ha.) But this DLC was full of those moments where you were just waiting for something else to scare you... which felt like something that was missing from the original RE5 and was lots of fun.

You can watch a couple guys play co-op through "Lost in Nightmares" in this video to get a sense of just exactly how fun this DLC can be:

Now, "Desperate Escape" is a completely different story. Cary and I finished this in just under an hour and, by the end, we were both exhausted. This DLC is a non-stop fuckfest of infinite missiles and the biggest, most annoying enemies in the original RE5. We thought we had played the DLC so horribly that, at the end, when we received an achievement for getting an S rank in the DLC, we were almost in physical shock. This DLC does NOT fuck around. It doesn't let you stop to catch your breath and I guess if that's your kind of thing... okay. But I wouldn't say I really enjoyed myself.

All of that being said, these DLCs were somewhere along the lines of 400 Microsoft points, which is a bargain and a half. At least for "Lost in Nightmares." I can't say I feel the same way about "Desperate Escape."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Think Francis Will Hate Nick's Suit?

Today as Lynsey and I got ready to start up a game of Left 4 Dead 2 we noticed a new video on the XBox Live marketplace centered around the upcoming DLC entitled, "The Passing". I swear, every time I think the series couldn't be any more fun, Valve proves me wrong:

As if the additional maps (for both games), new mode, new weapons and new infected weren't enough, I am downright giddy with the thought of Ellis awkwardly making moves on Zoey or Francis haphazardly sticking his foot out to trip Nick.

This DLC could launch as soon as this week but no later than next. I'm sure you'll hear our squeals of joy no matter where you are.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Now I Want You To Reach Into That Bag and Find My Wallet

Caught this on my way out of work today:

Don't even pretend you're not jealous.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Experiment in Social Awareness

Awhile back I posted my irritation at a certain Playstation 3 commercial playing off the stereotype of the hot, dumb girlfriend who can't tell the difference between a video game and a movie. Yes, yes, it's all fun and games (pun!) and not meant to be taken seriously. It was never the surface of that commercial that bothered me however, rather it was the the underlying messages it was projecting: men play lots of games and women probably can't figure out how to turn a gaming system on.

Well, that idea must have gotten some positive feedback (albeit not from me) because a similar type of ad has been released by Sony promoting "God of War 3":

Seems they've now replaced the hot, stupid girlfriend with the whiney, needy one. This ad bothers me just like the other one did but for different reasons; while we have the pouty girlfriend who just can't get attention from her boyfriend while he plays his big, butch (i.e. repetitive, button mashing, snorefest. Yeah, I said it) game, you've got the boyfriend himself who is so consumed with his game he fails to notice those around him.

I'm honestly a little more offended for the male gamers here. What this commercial is feeding off of is the idea that men are in fact video game addicts. Not just any games either - graphically violent ones. Even the Sony representative can't tear himself away from the carnage to acknowledge the woman who doesn't know anything about God of War except for that "Kratos guy".

Wait, wait, wait - come back over here and sit down. No rolling your eyes either! I saw that.

Don't take this as me being a crazy, uber liberal feminazi. My actual operational definition of feminism is one of total egalitarianism. I do not think men are above women and I do not think women are above men. I'm not going to go into more of that here but I feel that's important to stress in this situation.

This ad is playing off both gender stereotypes. It is absolutely not meant to be taken seriously but I'm asking you to think about why this ad is funny. What exactly makes the joke come together?

Now, is this all of this a bad thing? I think so, yes. Not "evil" bad, however, but rather a "bad" in that I believe it prevents people from discovering their true potential at times for fear of violating perceived gender normalcy. If I have any one diabolical plan behind this blog it's that I want people to be more aware of ads like this. Really look at your games and gaming media and ask yourself what these things are saying about you and your gender.

You may be surprised to find out how far down the blue and pink rabbit holes go.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

For you? Maybe. But it'd have to be a pretty dress.

I didn’t like Mass Effect.

I also didn’t like Elder Scrolls IV/Oblivion.

I know, I know. Me and this one other dude who didn’t like those games either will sit in the corner over here with the lights off.

Still, I really wanted to like both of those games. I was intrigued with the storytelling in Mass Effect and really liked the world of Oblivion. However, with both games, something just didn’t click. The thing about me and RPGs is that if I’m going to commit a minimum of 40 hours to a game it needs to grab me right away. I can’t be bothered with complicated and messy game mechanics or quests that take 10 minutes of real time to navigate. I need an RPG to let me hit the ground running.

So, after some thought and reading of reviews, I decided to check out Dragon Age: Origins. Here I’ve got a game made by the folk behind Mass Effect in a setting like Oblivion. Considering what I’ve said above, that sounds like a no win situation. Still, I created my human mage and gave it a shot. When I turned the system off, 5 hours had gone by when I, in all seriousness, thought I had been playing for maybe 2.

This was a bad sign but in a totally different way.

Much in the same way that Fallout 3 has compelled me to dedicate 130+ hours to it’s immense and complicated world, Dragon Age: Origins has sucked me in and refuses to let go.

Selecting from 1 of 6 origin stories (I’ve only completed two at present) you find yourself going about your everyday routine when something unprecedented happens. Be it helping a friend with a terrible secret escape his would be captors or defending yourself and your friends from sexual and mental abuse, today just isn’t your day and you’re left wondering if the sudden arrival of Duncan, the Grey Warden, is going to make it any better.

You’ll soon find yourself on your way and I defy anyone to say that the impending journey is anything short of amazing and, more importantly, engaging.

For me, the mark of a truly good RPG is it’s characters. The setting, the tasks asked of you, none of it does a damn bit of good unless you care about those it’s impacting. Having said that, there were several times during the game where I felt at a total loss. I just didn’t know what to do. I knew what was best for the country, or what was best for my party, but it conflicted with a character I felt close to.

Dragon Age: Origins is incredible at bringing these moments about.

At one point, toward the end of the main quest, I nearly cried I got so upset that a decision I had made ended up messing things up for my character and her love interest. I really couldn’t believe that Bioware had created a character that I honestly liked so much that it hurt me to see him upset. I was upset over pixels, people!

And that’s pretty damn cool.

If I had to find a flaw with this game it’s that at times there are long stretches of combat to get through but the detail at which you can control all the members of your party makes it a geeky joy to take on. For example, you can say, program your mage to automatically stun every single enemy in a room giving your team time to analyze and prepare. Even though you can only physically control one character at a time, you constantly feel as though you know exactly what’s going on with everyone.

As I type this I’m giddy at the thought of downloading the available DLC. Not to mention playing through the entire game again to play with different options. Oh man, and don’t even get me going on the expansion pack, The Awakening, coming out in a few weeks. I’ve got lots of playtime to get in before then.